Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Few Favorites

We are in the middle of a major heat wave, and my camera and I have been pretty much staying in the air conditioning. So, since I haven't been out to look for new photo opportunities, I decided to dig out a few old photos to share.

The tulip tree (also called tulip poplar or yellow poplar) is Indiana's state tree. They're not really a common "landscape" tree and are found mostly in woods. But a friend of ours had this tree in her yard, and we just happened to be there when it was in bloom. And then, as an added bonus, this butterfly appeared on the scene.

And this butterfly was on a gorgeous azalea bush at the Dairy Queen in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Mist hanging over a mountain stream in the Smoky Mountains.

A small, unnamed waterfall on the Middle Prong Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

An autumn view from a Gatlinburg overlook on the Gatlinburg Bypass in the Smokies.

A view of fall colors from Campbell Overlook, one of my favorite views in Smoky Mountain National Park.

This is one of my favorite photos. It was taken in the spring of the year at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Smokies, where there is a sort of replica of a farm as it might have existed before the area became a national park. I had seen this rooster under the forsythia bush, but the sunshine made it impossible to see anything on the LCD screen of my camera; and I would have had to get down in the dirt to frame the picture in the viewfinder. So I just held the camera low and clicked the shutter, having no idea whether I was getting anything at all. I was pleasantly surprised with the resulting image.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mid-Summer Walk at the Reservoir

I haven't posted many pictures from the reservoir this summer, mainly because it's been so hot that I haven't walked as frequently as I should. And, on those days that I do walk, I sometimes leave my camera behind because it's just too hot to carry anything extra.

But I took the camera today.

I love it when the chicory is in bloom, and there is an abundance of it at the reservoir this summer. I wonder if it thrives in heat and drought.

Here is a honeybee on a chicory flower. If you enlarge the image, you'll see all the pollen clinging to the furry bee. We don't see many honeybees in our area these days, so it was a treat to see a few of them on my walk this morning.

Honeybees weren't the only ones enjoying the chicory today. This bumblebee was, too.

And lots of pollen is clinging to the bumblebee's fuzzy body.

A spider had spun a web on this chicory flower and seems to have caught a feast of insects.

Chicory isn't the only flower blooming at the reservoir right now. Queen Anne's Lace is also abundant.

The little dark red flower in the middle always intrigues me.

Of course, flowers aren't the only things that provide color at the reservoir. These fishermen and their reflection in the water added their own bit of color.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Night Sky

Today was Doug's brother's sixty-second birthday. Doug and I drove to his town to visit him this evening and took him out for a steak dinner to celebrate the occasion.

On our way home, there was a beautiful sunset.

Followed by a lovely almost-full moon. (The calendar says the full moon is tomorrow night.)

The beauty of the night sky was a special treat, topping off our birthday celebration with Doug's brother.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This and That

Here are a few photos taken during the past week or so.

It's hard to see, but there's a praying mantis in the photo above.

Here it is before we put it on the azalea bush. Doug was sweeping up in the garage and this little guy had gotten swept up in the debris. When Doug saw it, he rescued it, taking it outside where it could hide in the bushes.

From the cemetery across the road from our house, we can see some of the many wind turbines that are part of a wind farm that's being developed a few miles away.

Doug called me outside about nine o'clock last night to see some of the interesting clouds in the evening sky. This was taken from our driveway, looking northwest.

This was taken from the cemetery across the road, looking south.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Connections and Disconnections

When I was a child, my parents were close friends with another couple, Harold and Margaret. I think the friendship began with the two men working together at the large factory in our town. The wives enjoyed each other’s company, too, and it helped that the two couples each had a son and a daughter who were of similar ages.

Harold and Margaret eventually bought 20 acres, near a small town close to the larger city where we had all lived until that point, and built their house themselves. My dad, having grown up on a farm, loved Harold’s and Margaret’s new place, so much so that it bordered on envy.

I have memories of being at that house, while the four adults gathered around the kitchen table, playing the card games of Canasta or Pinochle, talking and laughing, while drinking beer and smoking cigarettes until there was a smoky haze filling the house.

Time passed. My dad and Harold both developed health issues related to alcoholism. Harold was hospitalized, I believe more than once, in a unit specializing in the treatment of alcoholism. During one of those hospitalizations, Harold, apparently in a despair-induced depression, found a way to take his own life.

His children were young adults by then, and moving out on their own. Margaret, overwhelmed by Harold’s death, didn’t think she wanted to stay on their farm. Knowing how much my dad had always loved the place, she offered to sell it to him. Dad jumped at the chance, and that’s how my folks came to own the farm where I was able to realize my dream of having horses.

Nineteen years later, I met Doug, my husband-to-be. Doug was from a neighboring state, and we met through mutual friends. (You can read about that here.) Very early in our may have been the first time we had gone anywhere together without being joined by another couple...Doug took me to a Christian concert in his home state. We found our seats, and then I went to use the restroom before the concert started. When I came out of the restroom, Doug had moved to sit with some friends that he had spotted in the audience. (For a moment, I wondered if he was trying to hide from me.)

Doug stood to let me into the row of seats, then introduced me to his friends, Max and Janie, who lived in Doug's hometown and attended the same church that he attended. Doug sat to my left, Max to my right, and Janie on the other side of Max. We chatted for a little while before the concert started. Then, during the intermission, we resumed the conversation. I learned that Max was originally from another small town, not far from my home area. I told him the name of the small town where I had lived until recently, on the 20-acre farm owned by my parents. His face showed surprise, and he told me that Janie was from that same town.

I leaned past Max to take another look at Janie, who had looked familiar to me when we were first introduced; and I suddenly realized that this was Harold's and Margaret's daughter whom I had not seen in years. After the concert, Max and Janie invited us to their home for ice cream before Doug drove me back to my own home. It was a wonderful evening, not only because of Doug's company, but because of renewed acquaintance and shared memories with Janie.

Another 25 years passed. We maintained a relationship with Max and Janie, although they continued to live in Doug's hometown; and Doug moved to mine. Then, last week, a mutual friend gave us the tragic news that Max had committed suicide.

We went to the evening visitation at the funeral home and to the funeral service at the church the next morning. Over 1,100 people had gone through the line to express their condolences during the funeral home visitation, and there were probably close to 500 at the funeral. Those who worked with Max on the Friday before his death said everything had seemed normal that day. Those who "played" with him that Saturday said the same. His family had no clue. And Max left no explanation.

Two pastors shared the podium during the funeral service. The first pastor to speak was a young man who had grown up in the church and is its current pastor. He is the same age as one of Max's own sons and shared memories and stories, both humorous and poignant, from his long association with the family, extending comfort and encouragement to them.

The second pastor to speak had been the pastor at the church several years ago. He tackled some of the hard issues that survivors whose loved ones have committed suicide must face. He reminded us that we are each responsible for our choices; we cannot take responsibility for the choices that others make. Max, for whatever reason and in whatever state of mind, chose suicide. Those left behind should not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by a sense of guilt, thinking that something they could have done or said or seen might have prevented Max from making the choice he made.

The pastor also cautioned against harboring feelings of anger or bitterness toward Max, urging us to forgive. He reminded us of the futility of speculating about Max's reasons and of the sin of gossiping about the event.

It's hard to imagine how dark things must look to a person who can convince himself that suicide is the only good solution. My husband, before he became a Christian, had attempted suicide once and was preparing to "do it right" the next time. He "just happened" to be driving past the fairgrounds in his hometown one night, a couple of weeks before he would have had enough money saved to purchase a gun for the deed, when he saw a sign advertising a Christian crusade at the fairgrounds that night. He decided to go in, and that's the night that he heard that Christ had died for his sins and that, by trusting Christ, he could be born into God's family and assured of eternal life in heaven.

When Doug prayed that night and asked Christ to come into his heart and forgive his sins, that darkness that he had lived with for years was instantly lifted. Anyone who knows Doug knows that he's not the overly emotional type. He didn't see signs and wonders in the sky or hear violins playing or bells ringing. But the terrible darkness was gone. The Spirit of God had come to take up residence in his heart, and He brought the light of God with Him.

I know this has been a lengthy and heavy post, but Max's death and the grief of his family have weighed heavily on my heart; and I just felt the need to share this. I know that there are some of you whose circumstances are difficult or whose hearts are heavy with cares that you may feel couldn't possibly be understood by anyone else. But there is One Who does understand. And He urges you to be "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (I Peter 5:7)

I pray that you will accept His invitation to "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Waterfowl on the 4th of July

On Monday, the Independence Day holiday, we went to visit Doug's brother in Michigan. After going out to eat, we drove around a little and wound up at a little park with a pond and lots of waterfowl. Of course, I had to shoot a few pictures. And, of course, I had to post them here.

I don't know my species very well. Who am I kidding? I don't know my species at all. 

I was just intrigued by the bump on this fellow's head.

And speaking of bumps on the head...
This bird was sporting a doozy.

I thought the coloring was interesting on this one...mostly black and white, 
but with a green neck and head.

A gull was hoping we'd throw it a snack or two.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the birds in the park that day.

The day was waning, and some of the birds appeared to be getting sleepy.

The duck in the foreground could hardly keep his eyes open, 
and the other was already tucked in and sound asleep.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

American Independence...A Look Back

George Washington
1st U.S. President
"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
--The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.

John Adams
2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
"Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
--Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."
--Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever."
--Adams wrote this in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776.

(Note of explanation: The Lee Resolution was approved on July 2, 1776, declaring the Thirteen Colonies to be independent of the British Empire. The text of the document formally announcing this action, the United States Declaration of Independence, was approved on July 4.)

Thomas Jefferson
3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event."
--Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

Samuel Adams
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Father of the American Revolution
"And as it is our duty to extend our wishes to the happiness of the great family of man, I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the sceptre of Him who is Prince of Peace."
--As Governor of Massachusetts, Proclamation of a Day of Fast, March 20, 1797.

James Monroe
5th U.S. President
"When we view the blessings with which our country has been favored, those which we now enjoy, and the means which we possess of handing them down unimpaired to our latest posterity, our attention is irresistibly drawn to the source from whence they flow. Let us then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgments for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good."
--Monroe made this statement in his 2nd Annual Message to Congress, November 16, 1818.

Benjamin Rush
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution
"I know there is an objection among many people to teaching children doctrines of any kind, because they are liable to be controverted. But let us not be wiser than our Maker.
If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into all the world would have been unnecessary. The perfect morality of the gospel rests upon the doctrine which, though often controverted has never been refuted: I mean the vicarious life and death of the Son of God."
--Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published in 1798.

John Witherspoon
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Clergyman and President of Princeton University
"While we give praise to God, the Supreme Disposer of all events, for His interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh ... If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.

What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.

Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country."
--Sermon at Princeton University, "The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men," May 17, 1776.

Patrick Henry
Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
--The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

John Jay
1st Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and President of the American Bible Society
"By conveying the Bible to people thus circumstanced, we certainly do them a most interesting kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced.

The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; that this Redeemer has made atonement "for the sins of the whole world," and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve."
--In God We Trust—The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, p. 379.

Wishing a happy Independence Day to all who have benefited from the wisdom and faith of America's founding fathers.

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