Imagine a world without flowers…

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The other day, my mom and I decided to run to the local public garden to enjoy the blooming tulips. We knew we had a small window of time to catch them in all of their glory before they faded away until next year. I grabbed my new camera (a Canon mirrorless camera), excited to see what kind of shots I could get with it.

As we walked around, we realized that, while the tulips were indeed beautiful, it was actually the blooming trees that grabbed our attention. Such incredible beauty. Photographs cannot do them justice.

How incredibly kind of God to provide so much beauty in nature. He did not have to create flowers for plants to procreate. And yet He did. Think about a world without flowers. How drab.

I realize some of you are not interested in flowers. I do get that. But, for me, a world without flowers is a sad world indeed. In fact, when our family took a mission trip to Haiti (Read about our trip here and here), this was one of the first things I noticed. It was a brown world with little green foliage and even less flowers. I think I counted two flowers along the road in all of our journeys around the countryside (and, yes, I actually was specifically looking for them! And, yes, I do realize how odd I am!)

And while I have heard there are beautiful areas in Haiti, we were never privileged to see them. Instead, we spent our time in the countryside outside of Port Au Prince, dismayed not only by the extreme poverty but also at the lack of natural beauty. This trip gave me such a greater appreciation for the abundant flowers found in my area in spring and summer.

At any rate, this is one of my unusual posts that has no spiritual lesson but is, rather, a nice break from all the more serious stuff I tend to cover. I hope it is a refreshing and welcome change and that you enjoy the photos below–

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It’s Always There

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Life goes in stages. Sometimes it is incredibly lovely and all is well with our world. Other times it can be downright hard to spot anything lovely at all. But no matter how dark or frustrating our lives are, there is always beauty to be found. Sometimes we just have to search for it a bit harder.

We may spot it when a friend reaches out in our time of need. Or perhaps it is through a thoughtful note that encourages our heart. It may be hearing the perfect hymn or worship song just when we need it. Often it is through the Word of God.

Perhaps when the beauty is hard to find, the glimpses of it are even more precious.

November can be a little like this. Most of the flowers have faded. The world is turning many shades of brown as plants die off for the winter. Trees look like sentinels as their leaves drop to form a carpet at their base. While some trees turn vivid and bright colors and provide a beautiful view from far away, it is definitely harder to find any beauty close-up at this time of year.

Last week, I decided to do some searching for the beauty of autumn. For those of you who may be a new reader to Growing 4 Life, you may not know that I am a {very} amateur photographer (I don’t even really like to call myself a “photographer” as I care absolutely nothing for apertures, lenses, or ISO but just love to take photos!) This past year I purchased a membership to a local garden. I shared some of my photos in the spring and in the summer. At that time, it was abundantly easy to find beauty. In fact, I had a hard time choosing which photos to share, there were just so many. But this last trip was a bit of a challenge. Instead of flowers, I found berries. Instead of green leaves, I found yellows and reds. Instead of bees and butterflies, I found noisy birds and busy squirrels.

I hope you enjoy these photos. And I hope they encourage you to find the beauty in your own life. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, may we remember just how kind and gracious our Creator is. May we remember just how blessed we are. And may we be an overflowing source of encouragement to a soul who may be struggling to find the beauty in their own life this holiday season.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

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So if you are still with me through all of those photos, I have one final treat for you. This gardens gives a beautiful view of our local amusement park. I just had to share–

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The Glory of the Garden

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The dying rose caught my eye. It only had a few of its petals left. Nestled among the leaves close by this rose were still-green, closed buds, along with buds just starting to show their color, adolescent roses shyly opening their petals to the world, and full and stunning roses in the height of their glory. This last group were the ones which I had come to photograph. Is there any flower that shows its glory more than the rose? I was coming a bit late and had missed the first push of the season, but I still found many beautiful roses, bright and gorgeous flowers in shades of pinks, salmons, yellows, oranges, and whites.

But it was that fading rose that really started me thinking.

In a way, our lives are similar to that of the roses. We start as baby buds–young children with so much potential ahead of us but, still green, we give little indication of what we will look like as adults. And then, as teenagers, we open up and our colors start to peek through just a bit as we start to show who we will become as adults. A few years later, we are in our twenties and we are immature flowers that are tentatively opening up to the world around us. This stage finds us ready to take on the world and eagerly developing our talents and dreaming our dreams. It is in our thirties that most of us experience pure and stunning fullness. By this time, most of us have a good understanding of ourselves and who we are. We have found our niche and have settled in to our comfort zones. By this time we have acquired some wisdom and we also still have our health. As we hit our forties, our petals open wider and start to fade. Our bodies stop cooperating with us and we feel a bit stiff when we get out of bed in the morning. We are glad for the wisdom that age has taught us, but we are bummed about our bodies starting to let us down. And then as we head into our fifties and sixties, we start losing petals. One by one they start falling off. The things that we have counted on for security — our children, our careers, physical beauty, health, parents– one by one they start falling away. It is in this stage that we realize no one is taking pictures of us anymore. We are the rose that is fading. The one that is on the way out. And then comes the rosehip. This is what develops when all of the petals have fallen off. The rosehip can be used for so many things, just as those in their 70s, 80s, and 90s still have so much to offer a world that has lost interest in them. The older generation may be the least mined treasure in existence in a world that idolizes youth.

There is really no spiritual lesson here. Just an observation about human life. We are like the roses. And this is the way that life goes.

I heard this quote recently: “Sometimes we get so caught up in who we were, that we can’t appreciate who we’ve become.” This is very tempting for those of us who are older. We are tempted to define ourselves by who we were, rather than focusing on who we’ve become and what we can still be doing for the Lord today.

Well, that’s a little philosophizing for you today. Now for the photos. Below you will find a few of my favorite photos of the roses. I used my point and shoot camera, so they aren’t quite as good as usual, but I think they are still worth sharing. Hope you enjoy them!

p.s. I am taking next week off from writing. It’s time for a little break! I’ll be back the week after next. :)

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Consider the Blossoms

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Sometimes–with everything that’s going on in the world and within the church and, perhaps, even in our own lives– we can start to feel a little anxious, overwhelmed, or fearful. We lose sight of perspective and take our eyes off the Lord and turn them to earthly things. This is so easy to do, isn’t it? How quickly we forget that we serve an almighty God who will be the victor in this fierce battle for the world! I Chronicles 29:11 puts it this way–

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.

I thought it might be a welcome break to take our eyes off of the problems, battles, and sadness of this world and turn them to the wonder of God’s breathtaking creation this morning. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit a nearby gardens with my camera yesterday. I just wanted to share a few of my favorite shots from that trip plus a few from my own backyard. God has clothed the flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, and yet He has done it so marvelously! O, How much more He cares for us! What a wonderful reminder (Luke 12:27-28).

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A Walk Through the Lilies

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I have this fascination with flowers. And my two favorites are lilies and hydrangeas. I tuck varieties of these two plants in any empty space and corner I can find in my backyard. When I took a walk out back the other evening I realized that the lilies are in full bloom. They are just so beautiful that I had to share a few photos of them here. God’s creation never ceases to amaze me! The lilies are such a wondrous display of our Creator.

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After the Rain

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I couldn’t resist. Yes, with two weddings coming up and a landscape business, I am incredibly busy right now, but what kind of life is it to be too busy to grab your camera and take a few shots? We have been hoping, praying, and longing for rain here at our house. When it’s dry it brings all the stresses that a weather-related business tends to bring. Apparently, before yesterday, this was shaping up to be the third driest spring on record in this area! We received an inch and a half of rain last night and we are praising the Lord for it!

I thought I’d share a few shots I took from our yard after yesterday’s beautiful rain–

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Springing to Life!

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I absolutely love this time of year! To me, it symbolizes hope and new life. The plants that have been dormant underneath the surface of the earth make their tentative way up through the ground and come back to life. Trees and shrubs start to bud and then produce blossoms that take your breath away when you really stop to look at them. The landscape comes to life as greens and reds and yellows start replacing the drab browns that have been our background for the past several months.

As you may already know if you’ve been hanging around Growing4Life for a little while, I am a bit of an amateur photographer (actually, I don’t think I would even use the term photographer–maybe just “picture-taker”). At any rate, I took my camera around my backyard a couple of times so far this spring and captured a few shots, reveling in the beauty of nature.

So I thought I’d share a few of my photos with you. Don’t forget to spend a few moments observing the earth springing back to life in your own backyard.

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Searching for Spring

Totally spontaneous post here but today was a bit more seasonable and, between the weather and my illness, I have been yearning for a little sign of spring. I mean when it is time for spring, even winter weather can’t hold it back–not forever, anyway. And so I took my camera with me on a little walk outside to see if I could find some proof that spring is definitely on its way. I thought I’d share a few shots with you. I find them a wonderful reminder of Ecclesiastes 3– to everything there is a season. So thankful for the season of SPRING!

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Wednesday Wisdom: Learning from Creation

IMG_4168revI am sitting here on a screened-in porch by the Caribbean sea this morning enjoying some quiet time and thinking about what I want to post this morning (and, really, even if I want to post this morning…) when all of a sudden it started raining. I watched the rain for a few minutes when suddenly I realized that there was a rainbow. And not just any rainbow, but the fullest, brightest rainbow I have ever seen! It was gorgeous and my picture does not do it even a bit of justice.

The beautiful rainbow brought to mind the awesome sites we’ve seen the last couple of days in our exploration of Grand Cayman Island. We have come across incredible skies, wildlife, plants, and sea creatures that just confirm the awesome beauty of God’s creation. I thought that I would share some of the photos here. Instead of presenting someone else’s writing this Wednesday, I am presenting God’s creation, basing this post on Romans 1:20. I hope you enjoy these shots that I have taken.

P.S. For any interested photographers–all of these photos were taken with my Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

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God’s Canvas

This won’t be my typical post. For a few years now I have started to enjoy taking pictures. Oh, I have always enjoyed taking pictures of my kids. But my interest has stretched out to encompass a few other subjects. One of those is the sky. Many is the evening I will glance out my front window and just have to go and grab my camera. God paints us amazing sky views almost every day. Whether it be a sunset, a brewing storm, or a bright blue sky filled with white, puffy clouds, I find the sky beautiful.

Now I am not a professional photographer by any means, nor do I want to be. However there may be a few of you who would enjoy some of the shots I have taken over the past few years. Photos like this help me to remember that God is so big and I am so small. They also remind me that God is the source of beauty. I apologize if I included too many. I had a such a difficult time narrowing it down!

06-11 Haiti (11) 07-10-12 (5) 07-12 (Smoky Mountains) (1) 07-12 (Smoky Mountains) (3) 07-31-12 (2) 07-31-12 (5) 08-29-12 (3) 09-08-12 (1) 09-08-12 (9) 9-2012 (2) 9-2012 (8) Cape May 2012 (1) Cape May 2012 (14) Gettysburg 6-13 (13) Gettysburg 6-13 (21) HAITI REVISED July 2, 2013 (13) July 2, 2013 (28) July 2, 2013 (34) July 3, 2013 (1) July 3, 2013 (3) June 16 2013 SKY (4) June 26 2013 SKY (6) June 26 2013 SKY (10) March 2013 (3) March 2013 (10) May 29 2013 SKY (2) Summer 2012 (3) Summer 2012 (79) Summer 2012 (86) Summer 2012 (104) Summer 2012 (109) Winter Sky (2)