Makes Me Happy Monday : Tiny Creatures

Potato Beetle

Isn’t there something fascinating about tiny critters?
Insects with their beautifully marked, delicate wings
and intricately adorned abdomens are enthralling to me.Praying Mantis

Mini versions of captivating creatures make them even more interesting.
Look at this gorgeous Praying Mantis! Could he possibly BE any cuter?

Green Lynx Spider hidingAnd LOOK at the hairs on the legs of this spider! Isn’t he amazing?

Gorgeous slug

Even though many people shudder at the sight of a slug,
I think they’re intriguing and charming.

I tend to prefer a macro perspective … living life looking close at the little details
of creation, artwork, food, fabric, people … and even problems.
When we look closely, we can figure out the “why” and the “how.”
When we examine closely, we can uncover design elements
and purpose for operation.
When we inspect, we can more easily detect
motive which often allows us to be more empathetic.

I love animals of all kinds,
but I especially love the tiny creatures
that creep, crawl, fly, slither and hop across this earth.

Tiny creatures make me happy today.
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Starlings

One day, I hope to see a murmuration of starlings like THIS!!

But, for now … I am simply happy to come across a flock of birds
dining together,
traveling together,
perching together.

I’m not sure if these birds are starlings, grackles or black birds. 
I wasn’t close enough to be able to figure them out.
What I do know, is I love to watch flocks of birds interact with each other.

#birdsonawire Starlings

I love how they perch on wires with the majority of the birds equidistant apart.
They’re much like people, I guess.
They have a comfort bubble when it comes to personal space?


#birdsonawire Starlings

I relish spring when Robins flock together
and when Canada Geese return
flying in a V across crisp blue skies.

And I enjoy watching flocks of birds in the fall
as they rest together
in preparation for flight.

#birdsonawire Starlings

Flocks of birds
and approaching fall bring me joy
as we close out the month of August.

What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Gifts of Encouragement

I made a young, new friend last weekend. I found myself helping clean her house as she moved things from her parent’s home to her new home. Watching her interact with her mama made me think of my relationship Glory. She was so excited to show her mom her new house with hardwood flooring and ancient lighting. She bounced from room to room. “Mom, look at this!” “Don’t you just love that!”  “This reminds me of the cabin in the mountains!!” “Look! That looks like the chandelier at grandma’s house!” Owl Mug

The house was built around the same time that our Montclair house was built. Being there made me remember how much I miss it. I miss the halls that are wide and the floors that are beautifully worn. I miss walls that can be painted and ceilings that are high. I miss the quality craftsmanship of a home built before the 70’s housing boom where quality building material and attention to detail became expendable rather than expected. Owl Mug Ann’s parents are divorcing. I saw the awkward in the family as they interacted … tense and careful.  All the children are going in different directions. Everybody is moving out at the same time as they sell the 6000 sq ft home that they shared.

And again, I thought of Glory.

The only tears that were shed when we moved from our home of ten years – the only home we owned in her life time – came from her. She was living in Dallas and came home often. In our old house, there was plenty of room for her. She brought her cat, because we had space to spare. She brought friends from time to time. There was always space for one more. I never turned down a visitor.

Things are different now. I moved into a home with two bedrooms; one for me and one for my youngest. Anybody else who sleeps here, has to sleep on the floor. If my kids get married and come from out-of-town for a visit, there will be no place for them. When there are grandchildren, there will be no welcoming spot at Grandma’s house. I have to admit that this is the hardest part of my downsize.
But, it is what I had to do …
and it is what it is.

And Glory knew this would be the case. As we spoke on the phone the day I explained that I had to move, she got still and quiet. I could hear the sniffles. I asked, “Are you okay?”  She responded, “It’s just hard … because I’ll be homeless.” I knew exactly what she meant. She was not talking about literally having no place to sleep at night that was hers. She had her own apartment in Dallas … though soon she’d be moving and she wasn’t quite sure WHERE she was going. But, just as much, she was talking about a magnet that I gave her when she moved away. It says, “Home is where your mom is.”

I would be in a place that couldn’t embrace her the way I always had. She would have no welcoming family home where everybody could gather … a place to bring friends that was spacious and welcoming.

Owl Mug

As Ann unpacked her belongings, she plopped a basket on the kitchen counter that had the cutest little owl kitchen towel and oven mitt. She mentioned that she loved owls as she hung the towel over the oven door bar and then scurried away to keep unloading.

So, when I was out shopping over the weekend for a gift for a friend, I came across this precious mug.
I threw it in my basket for Ann.

Growing up is hard work. Divorce is devastating. Moving is exhausting.
If I can spend a few dollars to bring a ray of sunshine into the life of a friend
who is going through a lot,
I want to do it.

I’ll wash and spiff this mug,
(I just had to try it out!!)
add a little cheerful tag
and leave it on her doorstep tomorrow when I am in town.

It makes me happy
and brings me great joy
to know that I can offer a little something to encourage a new friend.
What about you?  What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?
Owl Mug

Makes Me Happy Monday : Skin Comfort & Lace Socks

The first time I wore my lace socks with a dress, I was apprehensive. I knew it was a little bit out of the ordinary for a fifty year old woman … but I wanted to wear them any way.

I’ll have to admit I was a little bit uncomfortable that day …
NOT because I didn’t like the look …
but because I knew other people might not like it.

Lace socks and lace-up boots

Fast forward three years, I now have five or six different pair of lacy socks
and I wear them with my boots at least once a week.
I wear them with skirts, dresses and shorts.

And they make me so happy. My lace socks & bootsThey make me happy, in part,
because of what they represent.
They represent a sloughing away of
people pleasing. 

Sometimes I think, “Damn, this took a long time.”
I mean, uhm ….. I’m over fifty years old, for heaven’s sake!
Should it really take THIS long to get comfortable with yourself and be emotionally healthy?

We are all built different. Depending on our personality type, we struggle in different areas. I am highly empathetic, I care about other people’s feelings, motivations and desires .. and so, I care if they are mad at me, don’t like me or are hurt by me. The problem with this character trait is it causes us to put others feelings, motivations and desires above our own to a point that, we lose ourselves in trying to keep everybody around us comfortable. #disaster

Praise God, I’m not longer in an co-dependent, enabling relationship that keeps me fettered, smothered and witholding. I am learning to create healthy boundaries and not allow myself to be bullied or influenced in ways that are unhealthy for me.

My fun lacy socks, my awesome leather boots and my learning to love myself
make me so happy today!
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Wild Flowers

Planned, tended gardens are beautiful.
But, there is something so lovely about the surprise of wildflowers.
When you least expect it, you round a bend of a meandering path
and find the surprise of blooming joy.

There are those plants that spring from seeds
that find a way to spread their roots into the impossible …
the rocky, solid and difficult to penetrate
and they bloom bold color and vivid greenery.
They defy what looks natural
by offering joy in the most unlikely of places.
Wildflower

I love their surprise and adaptability.
I love their haphazard presence … a few here ….
and then several hundred there.

Wildflower
The roadside near my campsite this weekend was fully peppered with spots of yellow.
Dozens of blooms buzzed with insects and blew in the gentle evening breeze.

Wild flowers at Victoria Bryant State Park

I was so happy to see them …
these stems and petals, stamens and pistils, blossoms and buds
reminding me of the beauty of life
available for us to soak in
when we slow down enough to see it.
We must look for it. Hunt for it.
Make time for it. A little Black eyed Susan? There is such great peace found in wild simplicity ….
allowing yourself to become rooted even when it takes a little extra effort.
There is great joy that comes from doing what you’re born to do.
Like the wildflower, we have a Great Husbandman who will tend us and care for us
like no other can do.
The beauty of being alone is relying on Him
to be our caretaker and provider.

Remembering the gorgeous wildflowers from my weekend
makes me so very happy today.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Growth

Sunday morning
a few weeks ago
I took a walk around the property where I am now living.
I set out early … just after the sun rose.

The weekend that we made the bedroom-furniture transfer
from the old house to the new one
is the weekend that we topped the hill above our property
to find several fire trucks battling a fire
that had jumped the fire pit and was raging through the pines.
Even though the fire was legal with a burn permit,
sometimes nature has a mind of its own.
Such was the case that morning.
A quick response from the fire team
and the fact that the fire pit is far from inhabited buildings
allowed the fire to be extinguished without much harm.

charred woods

And the beauty that has sprung up since that morning
awes me.

If you look closely, you can see the tiny sprigs of green new life below.
wild fern after the fireWhen I look back on that morning that I wandered in worship,
I remember that I didn’t wonder about the classification of those wisps of life
stretching from the charred earth.
I didn’t even wonder “What are those little plants?”

In retrospect, that strikes me as odd.
I always wonder … and question.
I guess I was so taken by all the beauty … I just accepted it and soaked it all in without questioning.

I even photographed a few of the curls of vegetation.

Unfurling

This week, I had a chance to visit with my sweet landlord as she tended the fire pit
overseeing a month’s worth of brush turn to ash.

We sat for a good hour and chatted children and grandchildren,
spouses and pets,
gardening, investments and poor customer service skills.

Before heading back home,
she drew my attention to the patch of ferns that had sprung up
amongst the pines. wild fern

HOW had I missed them?
All of those curls of green
were ferns, now tall and full.

The green was striking against the background of blackened trees
and the amber carpet of pine straw.

As I walked home,
I thought about how life is so cyclic …
death and rebirth
injury and healing
winter and spring
questioning and answering.

Sometimes we have to sit in the tough places for longer than we would like.
Sometimes we walk through grief for longer than others understand.
Sometimes the distance between injury and healing feels endless.

But, be encouraged.
Today is a new day.
Rebirth is coming.
Healing is near.
Spring is beginning.
Answers can be found.
Even when we don’t stop to wonder and question,
answers will come.
In time.

Your walk through struggle and grief is yours.
Nobody gets to tell you “Get over it,”
“Move on” or “Forget about it.”
This is YOUR life. These are YOUR experiences.
If it takes you a little longer than other people to process and work through your pains,
that’s okay.
Other people want to rush you because they know they can’t “fix” it for you
and it makes them uncomfortable.
Or they know they’ve caused the pain and they feel guilt.
Or they don’t deal with their own messes so they don’t want to watch you deal with yours.
Well, you don’t have to hide your pain
in order to make other people comfortable.
You take your time. Walk through it. Look at it. Work it out.
Like the fern pushing through the blackened earth
unfurling towards the light,
there is a newness and a freshness coming.
You take as long as you need.
I encourage you to give yourself that permission.

Because it is better to walk through it
than look the other way
and act as if the pain is not there at all.

This morning and every morning, growth makes me happy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Mistletoe

Oak out my kitchen window
There is a wonderful, stately oak tree in the backyard at the old house.  You could see him out the kitchen window. He has HUGE, strong limbs that held up well against the blustery spring days of the past and the weight of a layer of ice in last year’s storm.

Mistletoe in the oak

In the spring, I would often go outside and lie down on the driveway for a few moments
when the intense warmth from the sun on my face felt like a stranger
and the chill of the pavement on my back offered great contrast.
I would look up through those beautiful branches
and find myself squinting … my eyes surprised by the intensity of light
after a long, dark winter.
How quickly clouds would roll past.
How unfamiliar was the crisp, blueness of the sky.

And at least once a winter,
the oak would offer me a substantial cutting of mistletoe
placed in my walking path
right there on the ground so I couldn’t miss it.

Careful not to dislodge the waxy, pearl berries,
I would gently bring it into the house
find a “Christmas vase”
and call it an arrangement.

Mistletoe in a

Mistletoe has always reminded me of south Georgia.
The pecan trees hide the orbs of green through the lush summer,
but Oh, Fall!
Those parasitic plants are revealed
when the trees become bare.

Wiki says that mistletoe is not native to America. And it explains that mistletoe requires a host plant.  It buries roots into the limbs of a host plant and then draws nutrients and water from the tree or shrub. And in some cases, the limb upon which it plants itself can eventually lose circulation, die and fall from the tree.  So, in more ways than one, it is an uninvited invader to our area and to the plant it thrives upon.

And yet it is beautiful  … at least in my eyes.

The balls of life dot the tree canopies across thousands of acres during those cold months when most life that bears a bark overcoat is barren and slumbering. They cling tight in the frigid, blustery air of winter and offer fresh berries to birds and other foragers. And they remind me of the symbol of Christmas festivity – to offer a kiss when you stand beneath a sprig.

Not far from our new home,
I spied a tree full of mistletoe.

My heart sighed with joy.
God knows how I love mistletoe.
And like a gateway tree welcoming us to our new home,
I drove past this tree time and again
when we first visited
and later began to move our belongings
just around the corner.

Mistletoe

These two photos were taken less than two weeks apart during mid March.

Mistletoe

And as I drove past this morning with the sun barely over the horizon?
The mistletoe is nearly completely hidden.
The tree’s new leaves are a fresh, spring green … just moving past wildly iridescent …
while the parasitic plant is a deep, saturated jungle green.
The tree is filling in with leaves on every branch and limb.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....  I thought about how there are times when life is so full of growth
that we no longer notice the parasite who has the potential to cause damage.

He is covered, disguised and hidden.
He lingers there nourishing and growing
while we hardly notice his presence.

Wiki also points out that mistletoe has long been considered harmful to its host plant, but recent studies have revealed that it offers many benefits. Many animals eat the berries, shoots and leaves of the mistletoe plant. Their orbs provide protection for some animals during winter and others nest in them. Some animals that are drawn to the plant, become covered in pollen from the host. Later, these animals carry that pollen to other host plants, so the mistletoe actually encourages pollination of his host.

I am so reminded how our pains and discomfort can bring good.
When someone comes into our life that puts down roots
and steals what we feel is OUR nourishment,
they may simultaneously be beneficial to our lives
in ways that we might not expect.
In the end, we may feel like we have “lost a limb” because of their presence,
but searching can show us ways that we have benefitted from their stay
or that others have grown and reproduced via their intrusion.

It isn’t always pretty
when we are used as a host,
but if we search
we can find ways to see
how our loss
can also be the channel used
for gain, good and glory.

And, to be truthful,
in the end
we may find that
the “loss of a limb”
was a small price to pay
for the good that came
and also a small price to pay
to have them finally out of our lives.

I love mistletoe!
Mistletoe brings me joy.
What about you?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Internet Connection

Oh my goodness. It feels so good to sit at my desk
and open a browser on my laptop.

Four or five months ago, I made the executive decision to disconnect our internet. Things had become more and more tight financially and I decided that surfing the internet freely wasn’t a necessity. I have a friend who let me use her connection to pay bills once a month. And Joy and I used the library or a close-by Starbucks or Chick-fil-a when we needed extended use.

I’ll have to admit that there are things about being detached that were not pleasant. I didn’t like feeling so disconnected from news – local and world-wide. And my reply speed to email and Facebook conversations slowed down to a two or three-day response time.  Oh, how I missed the daily visual inspiration that Pinterest offers me!

But, for the most part, I was surprised at how much I accomplished when I wasn’t distracted by the endless information and entertainment found on the web.

This acceptance that I was overextended financially came with the realization that I needed to leave my home of ten years. I just couldn’t afford to remain any longer. That home was the first house that we bought after having children. It is the home that my children and I lived in for the longest period of time. It was the home that I chose to remain in after the divorce, because I thought that the upheaval of a move would be too much turmoil and unrest for those of us left behind in our home.

I’m very glad that I stayed.

Sifting through 25 years of marriage and 30 years of adulthood while guiding two grown children and a teenager to choose what to keep and what to release was quite a feat. There were tears. There was frustration. It was tough. I know that I made the right choice to do it five years after the divorce rather than the months immediately following it.

This morning, I sit at my desk and marvel. We’ve been here since March 1st. Sixteen days in and we’re settling in well. In many ways, things are better than they have been in years. My responsibilities have been cut greatly and I feel the weight lifted physically and emotionally. We have downsized by a great deal and I am not longer a “home owner,” but rather a “tenant.” If something breaks, I CAN fix it, but I don’t HAVE to fix it. This change is monumental.

So, I sit and drink my coffee and check my email from home in my pjs. I hear my youngest’s Nickelodeon alarm clock play reveille while I type here. And my Smudge, my kitty,  sits in my lap while I check my Facebook inbox.

My desk

And I’m thankful.
I’m thankful for home internet connection.
I’m thankful that I was put in a position to make a tough decision that my kids wouldn’t like, but I stood my ground.
And I’m thankful that I had a break and realized just how much time I have wasted on the web.

There must be balance.

And just in case my photo above offers an unbalanced idea of what my desk looks like …..
this is the other half of the desk.

I still have work to do ….
and I am thankful to say that the internet won’t be so great a distraction that I will be slowed down TOO much! My desk

So, a home internet connection
in our lovely new domicile
makes me happy this morning!
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday?

Makes Me Happy Monday : A Single Leaf

I vaguely remember a story told by a woman on a Christian radio program. She told the story about years before when she began to identify a certain animal with God’s love. The special sign for her, I believe, was a cardinal.  I don’t remember exactly how she came to this place, but she told the story of seeing the cardinal over and over during tough times and feeling like it was put in her view just for her. Her stories were a little bit … out of the ordinary as I remember. It seems as though she saw her cardinal in an odd place or an odd time and she was so moved by the sighting. And this began to happen over and over. Truly, I don’t remember all the details

BUT
I do remember that she encouraged the listeners to pick an animal and associate it with God’s love.
Let that animal be the one that would prompt us to remember that He loves us.

Well … what a great idea, right?
I mean … we all want to be reminded that we’re loved, right?

I decided that didn’t want to choose something common
like …. a certain kind of dog or bird.
I wanted to KNOW when God spoke to me.
I needed to KNOW that a SIGN from Him was a real sign.
You know? Like make the fleece soppy, drippy wet and the ground dry.
No. Wait! Wait! Wait! God … make the fleece dry and the ground soppy, drippy, muddy wet.   (Judges 6:36-37)

So, for my animal, I chose a manatee.
Yeah. I know. I don’t live near the ocean and never really have.
And the oceans near me don’t really have manatees.
And manatees aren’t really popular in paintings and home decor
… the way owls or ladybugs or birds or bees are.

I was helping God out. I wanted to help Him to make this super obvious.
… ’cause you know …. how God needs our “help,” right?

And I’m pretty sure
in the 15+ years between the time that I assigned God  my chosen “animal sign,”
I’ve seen one or two manatees a year.
And even when I SWAM with manatees in Florida a few years ago, 
I didn’t feel overwhelmed with God’s love.
Oh, I was excited and thrilled … but it wasn’t a
“God loves you” kind of overwhelmed.
It was more of a
“Oh, my goodness! God, you’re so cool! Thanks for letting me experience this!” kind of overwhelmed.
In reality, I’ve never felt overwhelmed with God’s love when I’ve seen a manatee
in an advertisement, painting, decor or image of any kind.
I have just thought … “Oh. There it is! Would you look at that! A manatee!
That’s supposed to remind me that “God loves me.”
It’s never felt any different from seeing a stop sign, or a cloud or a bowl of cereal.
In other words, seeing a manatee has always felt common. ordinary. every day.

My sign from God

And if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that God’s love is not common.
And I’ve known when He speaks to me
and when He comforts me
and when He convicts me.
His communication and presence are n.e.v.e.r common.

This morning, as I was crossing a lone parking lot
with nary any cars
just cracked asphalt and worn, painted parking lines
with the wind blowing winter in strong … bold and brazen and blustery
and the cold cutting right through my cotton dress snapping and flapping like a flag ….
I saw this leafMy sign from Godand tears welled up in my eyes.
Because I was reminded that God loves me.
He will never leave me or forsake me.
He walks with me and reminds me to breathe.
He gives me peace to rest at night.
He guides me along my way.
He is my provision.

My sign from God

I remembered the manatee
and how seldom I have seen one.

And I thought about how often I see a lone leaf
forlorn on the ground
all alone
sometimes tattered
sometimes matted to the ground by rain
sometimes crushed into the cement by passersby ….
but … with a beautiful shape and design created by Him
with His purpose in mind
and right in my path.
I love trees. I love sticks. and I love leaves.
I often think of Him when I see them.
And when I think of Him and all of this beauty,
I am reminded that He loves me.
And He sees me.

My sign from God

In my helping God by letting Him know that I would remember He loves me when I see a manatee
I was undercutting His magnificence
by ignoring that He has assigned my sign from Him.
My sign from Him
is a single leaf
laying alone on the ground
right in my path.

Yes, a single leaf makes me remember I am loved
and brings me great joy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?