Monday

A reminder for the times we're in...

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I use every resource at my disposal to identify this heron whose image I captured as he waded in and out of the water and snatched a blue-tipped damselfly out of the air.

Every bird identification tool I use confirms he's a tricolored heron -- from the white plume on his head to his overall contrasting plumage, but that yellow on his chest and abdomen throws me. Every resource I've referenced indicates that plumage should be white, not yellow, yet, he's clearly a tricolored heron.

Several years ago, we visited a church where we were warmly greeted by a gentleman wearing a kilt and whose graying hair was fashioned into two long braids that hung down to his waist. It was an introduction to a church and worship service that was foreign to us in many ways.

We recognized elements in this church that were clearly Christian - from the pastor's gospel-centered message to the music and order of worship, but other characteristics, though not contrary to Scripture, were simply outside our experiences and the Christian worship service form we knew. 

There are a multitude of differences in how Christians dress and work and live and worship that are outside our individual experiences, but there's one distinction that should set me apart and by which I should be known.  
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35
[A dusted off re-post]

Tuesday

Beginnings::Not-Summer on Pollywog Creek {a Photo Essay}


The beginning of the year on Pollywog Creek is in our unpredictable season of not-summer—an eclectic combination of fall, winter, and spring all at once.

Summer here in the deep, sub-tropical south is fairly predictable. The air-conditioner runs 24/7, it's oppressively hot and muggy, and afternoon thunderstorms are the norm.

Not-summer is less predictable. We might need the air-conditioner, open the windows or turn on the heater. It can be humid outside or dry. In the same week.

A cold front might bring rain, thunderstorms, or fizzle out and stall before it passes through. Already this month we have run the air-conditioner more days than not, had three severe storms with tornado warnings and turned on the heater.

This is how we are beginning 2016, and it's a thousand gifts and more.




In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1





He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also, he has put eternity into man's heart,
yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11





The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Psalm 111:10




Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, the first,
and with the last; I am he.

Isaiah 41:11
{Please visit my lovely photog friends and delight in their beginnings}
Julie @ Captured Bits of Beauty
Marty @ What Marty Sees
Connie @ Live, Love, Laugh, Hope

Sunday

Love::Fourth Sunday:Advent


See what kind of love the Father has given to us,
that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

1 John 3:1

Joy::Third Sunday:Advent


Tuesday

Circle of Faith::a Florida Christmas...



We buy our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and the six grandlittles (ages 3, 3, almost 5, 6, almost 9, 9) are the first to decorate it. We set out all the unbreakable ornaments and let them decorate however they want to, which means only the bottom of the tree is decorated when they are finished, and as you can tell by the photo in the bottom right, many of the branches droop under the weight of multiple ornaments. I kept the tree just as they decorated it for almost a week before I did a little rearranging and added the breakable ornaments. It's a family tree, with lots of handmade ornaments, and I love it just the way it is.




I can count my experiences with snow on one hand.

It snowed enough one night--when we lived in north Florida almost forty years ago--for a few flakes to accumulate on top of Louis' motorcycle helmet. I could see it from the window of our second floor apartment.

That might have been the same year Louis and I camped in the Blue Ridge Mountains after an early spring snowfall. Unable to find dry wood for a fire, we put on every layer of clothing we could and went to bed before dark--huddling together in our sleeping bags. The wind howled throughout the night and we woke up in the morning to find that our pup tent had collapsed on top of us. After only one night, we packed up our gear and headed home. Naïve and ill-equipped native Floridians that we were, it's grace we survived.

In January 2005, Emily and I were gifted with a trip to Washington, D.C. for Bush's Inauguration. We stared in awe and delight through the hotel window as snow fell throughout the first night we were in D.C. It was so pretty to watch, but navigating the slippery sidewalks and standing outside in the wet snow all day Inauguration day tempered any enthusiasm I might have had for snow.

Snow at Christmas was never my experience, but I grew up believing that it should be. My mother played Bing Crosby's "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," and Nat King Cole's "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" for weeks while we decorated our home with snowflakes cut out of folded paper and hung them from the windows she had sprayed with fake snow from a can. It was often warm enough to go swimming, but we still decorated the Christmas tree--set up next to the fake fireplace--with snowmen, snowflakes and icicles Clearly a cheap imitation of the Hallmark Christmases we apparently tried to emulate.   
      
Somewhere between growing up, growing older and growing in Christ, I decided to boycott anything to do with snow at Christmas and began to appreciate what makes Christmas in Florida different from much of North America. Like many places throughout the world, including Bethlehem and most of the Southern Hemisphere, Florida's warm, snowless Christmas is as real as the cold, snowy Christmases I grew up thinking were more authentic. Over the years I replaced my snow-themed decorations and ornaments (except for those with sentimental value) with those with a more tropical flavor, like poinsettias, pine cones and shells. 

More importantly, I embraced the truth that it's not the weather outside or the adornments we hang on our tree and use to decorate our home, but the One we adore in our hearts that makes Christmas authentic and gives us real joy. Everything else is the cheap imitation.

This post is my contribution to a monthly blog circle "Circle of Faith in Words and Image." The theme this month is Christmas. Please visit the blogs of my sweet friends in the circle linked below:

Julie at Captured Bits of Beauty
Marty at What Marty Sees
Connie at Live, Laugh, Love and Hope