Unexpected Beauty

Sometimes, beauty takes you by surprise and makes you gasp and smile. I took the first two pictures this morning: something unexpected but delightful.

The sun had come up and it illuminated this tree at a perfect angle because it looked as if the raindrops were dangling and glistening like tinsel. A magical sight from my favorite chair. I had to run and grab the camera before it was over. This oak tree is on my closest neighbor’s property. It keeps its dry leaves until the spring. What a lovely sight.
This is just the reflection of a drop of water that is on the outer side of the window glass. As I was going down the stairs, I noticed what I thought were shards of glass on the window. As I got closer and attempted to grab them, I realized it was just a reflection. I thought these were beautiful to look at, and I had never noticed them before. I went downstairs quickly and grabbed the camera once more. What a treat. I know, the window needs cleaning on the outside, but it is winter.
I took this picture the other day. The garden has gone to sleep, and we have had temperatures on and off in the 20s at night and even hit 6 degrees one time, but this plant refuses to go to sleep and keeps flowering. It is the only one in the garden that is still offering its colorful beauty, that is, besides the forsythia plant next door that always blooms in December. A lovely sight.
Every winter, I look forward to seeing this Forsythia bloom in December. So far, this plant seems to prefer winter blooms and not blooming in the spring. For the past four years, I have noticed her early blooms and enjoy it.

Hope you enjoy these pictures.

A New Outlook Must Follow Leaving Behind

Photo by M.A.D.

As a new year starts, a time for reflection continues, and new beginnings, new goals emerge. New plans are taken into consideration, and a new array of possibilities. For many of us the start of a new year represents a new slate, an exciting journey. We plan, we dream, we ponder, reconsider, and evaluate. We measure ourselves throughout the year left behind. Sometimes, we chastise our self, and other times, we are very pleased with our performance. It is also a time to reflect and leave behind that which does not fit us anymore – the old self that we have been carrying around for years for whatever reason, sometimes, even unaware of its presence. The shadow that once was but remains in our subconscious.

The old self manifests in old habits that don’t serve us anymore, dislikes that we force ourselves to like because we once did, old hobbies that we do not seem to enjoy anymore but think we do, objects that are meaningless to us but we keep, and even beliefs and frame of thought that does not serve us and that we have outgrown by time and experience but seem to have lingered in our lives and mind. Whatever it may be, material or unmaterial, it is better to leave it behind, and make room for new experiences. Sometimes Old Self is heavy and tiresome, even adding mental and emotional weight and clutter that we certainly do not need if we want to live a good life.

As I have pondered and evaluated over the past few weeks, I have found many things that are just not fit for me anymore, material and not, even just present in my life by habit through the years, but not serving the person I am today.

Your life, your space, your mind, should reflect the person you are, not the one you were or even the one you aspired to be once but are not. Life is ever changing, evolving, and sometimes, it turns out better than what we planned for that Old Self. Other times, we might feel that we have not measured up to our expectations, and regret might set in. When that happens, I am reminded and uplifted by this beautiful scripture. It is not critical, judgmental, or demanding. It is simple, sweet, and full of hope and possibilities.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Mathew 5:16

On Being Thankful

Thankful Squirrel – Photo by M.A.D.

As I sit here, I think about the upcoming Thanksgiving Day and what this holiday means. For some, it is an opportunity to share a big meal with family and friends. For other people, a “turkey day” of fun, while others look at it as the official start of the Holiday Season. For many, it is all of the above and a day for reflection, for counting and recounting all the blessings that the Lord has given and be grateful to Him for those. For other people, the day comes and goes just like another ordinary day, due to different circumstances.

There is so much to be thankful for, from the moment one opens the eyes to receive another day, another opportunity unique to each person to do better than the day before. No one is perfect, but to each one of us another day is given to do as we may, as we should, and ultimately as we want, with it the gift of free will, another precious gift to be grateful for.

On Thanksgiving Day, here in the USA, people will be eating and celebrating with family and friends, knowing or unknowingly aware of the deeper meaning and significance of this day. As many seconds the day has, each second is a reason to be thankful, but knowing that the seconds before then counted as well, and hoping that the seconds after will be unnumbered and plenty, because these can never be unlimited. Each second of life, a second of gratitude. Tomorrow comes and goes, and what remains are memories of that day, and when the memories fade over time, a grateful heart lives on forever.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all who celebrate the day, and many blessings to all of you.

Maria Antonia Diaz

Farmhouse Project Update – That Old Tree

As usual, there are plenty of things to do around here. Yesterday, my husband finished clearing up the mess from a previous storm, tons of branches that have been around for a while. Then, he decided to tackle the old tree that fell during the same time. We had estimates done, but he decided to do it himself, especially during this economy. He tackled the job in a couple of weekends. We will save the money for the trees that are too large and require professional handling. In the meantime, we will stop all projects until next year, because you never know. As for the veggie garden, it is done for the season. I picked the last of the tomatoes yesterday. The garden is starting to prepare for a deep sleep during winter. All the work from now on will be clean ups, mostly, not new projects.

The old tree and brush from a previous storm.

The old tree when it fell.
Debris and branches left from a storm.

The wood from the large tree is good wood that we gave to someone. It will be picked up sometime this week to be used as heat for the winter. Especially now that a cord of wood has gone up in price, I think in the range of $300, and many people are installing wood stoves because electricity will go up more, most likely, hence it will probably go up more with demand. We are happy that the tree will be used in a good way. Eventually, we will install a small wood stove in the kitchen.

Plenty of wood for heat.

Many critters that used to perch on that fallen tree will certainly miss it, and I will miss looking at them.

Nature recycles itself; maybe we should learn from it.

Assessing Your Strength and Building a Stronghold

Photo by M.A.D.

I wrote this blogpost as a second part to the previous post.

After a devastating life event, how do you come back to living?

A devastating event will be different for every person, as well as its lasting effects, physically, emotionally and psychologically, as well as materially. When your life has been uprooted and turned upside down and around, how do you recover? During a life storm, everything is taken out of place, including your center, your sense of self and well-being, especially, your sense of self in relation to your Creator.

The recovery and healing process and timeline, assuming that you want it, will be different for everyone, but there are key steps that you can take to start and continue on your way up.

  • First, acknowledge the situation, what has happened, how it happened, but don’t linger on the why looking for blame. Just acknowledge it for what it is at the moment. Know that stagnation or the present condition are not forever unless you decide so.
  • Decide that you want your life back. You want to own your life again, and not be a victim of the circumstances.
  • Acknowledge that you need help, and that help doesn’t equal weakness or handouts. Help can come in many forms: as faith in a higher power, help from above, from a friend or family, from community resources or private resources …
  • Assess your strength. What is good right now? What do you have that is an asset to your healing and recovery? Whether it is in character, spirituality, people, or material resources, make a list of each blessing and look at it. You are not alone. You will feel better.
  • Start visualizing your stronghold, your safe place; it is unique to you. See it in your mind, but also in your heart, no matter how impossible or far away it may seem right now.
  • Start building your stronghold one brick at a time.
    • Brick 1 – Faith, in God and yourself. You need to strengthen it because this block will be the foundation to build over it.
    • Brick 2 – Velocity. Take it one step at a time. Learn to manage the little things first. When you are hurt and vulnerable, anything seems like a huge crisis, unsurmountable, and sometimes it is; however, when in pain, smaller issues are magnified.
    • Brick 3 – Strive for balance. When the weight is out of place, it is easy to feel off balance. Know that a sense of balance will come back as you start managing smaller issues and details one by one. It will strengthen you to keep on going and feel equilibrium. During this time, talk to God; He listens.
    • Brick 4 – Live with intention. By now, you feel a new sense of purpose and desire, even if that is only to come back to the living. Make your days count for you and your loved ones. Live intentionally each day. After all, each brand-new day is a gift the second you open your eyes. Do the best you can with what you have.
    • Brick 5 – Use any resources available to you wisely and carefully. Plan the application of these resources in your life. Don’t waste or overuse these. Develop a sense of responsibility in their inception.
    • Brick 6 – Become selective. Choose carefully the things and people you will give your full attention. This might seem common sense, however, how many times have we placed our attention on things and issues that will not benefit us, whether it relates to time management, frivolous pursuits, unfruitful projects, toxic people, toxic behavior or habits, unhealthy thoughts … Actively choose what enters your space, your sanctuary, your new stronghold. But also, what you will go after from now on, your pursuits.
    • Brick 7 – Build your financial security. This starts with an honest appreciation of your everyday blessings, whether material or immaterial. Be grateful for what you have now and learn to manage it well. Not until that will you be able to define financial health (or any other type of security) for you. However, during that time, you should be working on a few simple skills.
      • Keeping your expenses as low as you can so you can do as much as you can with what you have.
      • Managing your money/resources better. Budgeting.
      • Being intentional with every purchase and on/or below budget.
      • Eliminating your debt one step at a time. It will take time. Stay away from new debt.
      • Building savings slowly. Set an amount, even if low, to start. Savings never stop.
      • Defining your standard of living according to the needs of the stronghold you set out to build. That is why your definition of financial health is important. It will help you discard anything that does not fit in your safe stronghold, whether expensive habits, behavior, or unnecessary purchases. You cannot build a new stronghold while living in an old one that crumbled.
    • Brick 8 – Don’t focus on other people’s strongholds, mind your own. Their blessing is their blessing, yours is yours. It is easy to become distracted by other people’s wants and achievements. It is good to celebrate those and admire, even having someone successful as a mentor. However, when you take your eyes off your stronghold for too long, you will end up neglecting it and even devaluating it. Focus on continuing to build your safe place. Admire others, dream, but don’t neglect your own. This ties back to gratitude.
    • Brick 9 – Realize that stuff and money do not make you rich or more valuable, and it certainly does not make you secure. You do and are with the help of God. When you realize where your true sense of security comes from, that is when you will have built your stronghold. You might have started building it from the outside, in the material, little by little, one small step at a time, one small achievement at a time, however, you will continue to build and improve it on the inside, inside of you, and that is a lifetime’s endeavor.

You are your stronghold and in it reside God’s strength, love, and blessings, because you placed Brick 1 as the foundation.

Disclaimer: I know because I’ve been there.

Spatial Disorientation

Photo by M.A.D.

We hope for fairness and constancy in life, but many times during our journey, we find ourselves on the opposite side of it, and most likely, not knowing up from down, and feeling that life has handed us the worst card, feeling sort of a spatial disorientation that numbs our senses and leaves us without a sense of direction, and many other feelings and emotions we rather not experience.

“It is not fair,” accompanies the anger and disillusion. During that time, how can we look up when we don’t even know where up is? Our compass, our radar, is not working properly. Everything might seem out of place in life, foggy, distant … It is hard to make sense of it all or make intelligent decisions. However, there is always a constant, one thing that remains the same when we don’t know our up from down, and that is the knowledge that help comes from above, wherever that might be. In an upside-down situation, help is a prayer away, and we don’t need to know our orientation because it is a matter of faith, and faith has no limits, no boundaries; spatial rules don’t apply here. When you feel that you have been handed your worst card in life, start by looking up, no matter if you don’t know your up from your down. All you need is a little bit of faith as your compass, and let God, the pilot, take you out of the storm and bring you to a safe place.

I will turn the darkness into light before them.

Isaiah 42:16

The Crossroad

Photo by M.A.D.

One of the joys of living is not being able to tell the future. In that sense, today is the most important day of one’s life. People live and die, and whatever they live in between, that “life road” is different for everyone, even for the most dedicated and perfectionist planner. Life doesn’t give you guarantees but it may give you surprises, good and bad. How we interpret and respond to those surprises will determine the road we will take when in a crossroad. Some people go through more challenging times than other people, but no matter who you are, at least one time in your life you will be standing at a crossroad. Sometimes, the options are more generous and better than other times; however, there are times when none of the perceived options feel right.

When going left or right doesn’t seem to make sense, there is always a third road. It is the one you make when you don’t like the options. It is like leaving the paved highway and cutting through the tall grass to get to the other side. It might be rough, full of weeds and stones, and you might even encounter a few snakes here and there; however, it will be the right road taken, that is, for you, because you will pave that road with every step you take and with every lesson along the way. In the end, the solution was part of the journey. “You have arrived.”

On Home and Country, One Day at a Time

Photo by M.A.D.

When I feel that my life is lacking balance in a certain area, I feel out of control; I think most people do. When a bad or out of the ordinary situation happens, people find themselves off-balance, in fear, and experiencing many other emotions. Most of us deal with the situation as best as we can, everyone in their own way. The repercussions throughout the many areas of life, sometimes leave you numb or in shock for a while, paralyzed, fearful … But there is a time after, when it feels as if a bit of sunshine is coming through the cracks. It is then when we can take control and keep living. The current state of affairs worldwide might leave people feeling afraid and hopeless. Unfortunately, no one is going to take care of our “house,” and no one is going to fix it for us. One has to find and create balance, whether one finds it through faith or not. It is up to me to keep on living and tend to my “house.”

Every person is dealt different cards, some people have to deal with very bad situations, many from infancy. For those people, balance might sound different, and they must fight for it, many times, throughout their whole lives. It can only be done one day at a time, but it can be done. Many times, we are sent an angel here on Earth, a person that makes a significant difference in our moment of need.

I hear about inflation every day, and how bad the economy is, and I see so many local businesses shutting down. I see the almost empty shopping carts at the supermarket, the stress in people’s faces. At the same time, I see the kind, and the giving, and the good existing alongside the bad. There is nothing I can do about many of these things except the things that are in my immediate control – adjust my budget, grow food, shop less or tweak a grocery list, clean up my pantry and freezer by using what I have instead of letting it go bad, donate to my local food pantry, pray, help someone I might be able to help … and so much more. We all can do something tangible (and spiritual) one day at a time, and that is how we take back control, how we tend to our house and country, how we find our balance points, and how we keep our spirits up. Do your own Declaration of Days. One day at a time.

Love and Light.

When Your World Crumbles and Your Truth Vanishes

I didn’t plan to write this blogpost, but deeply felt that I needed to write it. Life is just life; it is not perfect, and it is not guaranteed; it just is. Life can be all that when we decide that we want to receive all the gifts that God has readied for us. Life can be a real mess, or it can be sweet. This world is far from perfect and expecting others to be perfect is expecting something I cannot deliver myself; I am far from perfect. I can only love because God loves me first, otherwise, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am an imperfect decent person that once thought she had it all together but did not. I am happy that I found that out. When your perfect world crumbles, when your beliefs, habits, everything you knew as truth, or everything you knew as “you” comes toppling down, the only thing left is the real you, sometimes, the real scared you. That is a good thing; believe me, I have been there. Now, you can sweep away the pieces (don’t even bother to pick them up) and continue your journey (don’t even have to start a new journey, there is no such thing, just your journey).

This world is loud and fast; don’t pace yourself to it. This world is unfair; don’t expect fairness or righteousness from it. Instead, be for others what you were expecting for yourself. Don’t let the noise be louder than your faith. Faith in what anymore? In the only one that lived through it all, the unfairness, the rejection, the let-downs, the hate, the noise of the times … Jesus lived through it all. When in doubt, ask Him directly in a real imperfect but sincere prayer; He will answer you. I know. If you want to know Him a bit better, find him in the chronicles of His life (in the pages of the bible.) Don’t take anybody’s word for it; you find Him yourself! If you really want to know Him, you ask Him for help, and it will be given to you. He will reveal who He truly is to you. You’ll get your answer.

So don’t let this imperfect but beautiful and lovely world rob you of your peace, light, and love, instead, live like you have never lived before – connect through Him. It makes all the difference.

Love and light.

In all Her Glory

One of the most pleasing sights around here is when this rescued climbing rose blooms. It is the beauty that we almost missed because it was buried under overgrown grass and weeds. I just adore it. Sometimes, beauty is hidden deep; however, it is always there.

Love and light.