Goldenrod and a string of golden not-summer days {and to #bethegift with a giveaway}...

I'm home from Canada for less than a week when the goldenrod begins to bloom, and fall teases us with a string of stunning not-summer days.

Yellow orchid blooms dangle from from the oak limbs in the back yard...

...and the alamanda bush by the gate explodes in trumpets of lemon at dawn. If green is the color of August, then shades of yellow belong to October.  

At least here on Pollywog Creek.

The not-summer days wax and wane throughout the month bringing subtle changes that I'll miss if I don't pay attention. 

After months of summer rains that swell the banks of the creek and pond, the knobby knees of the now golden bald cypress bordering the pond's edge emerge as the water levels recede.  

Between the barb-wire fence and creek, clusters of acorns herald more not-summer days ahead. Maybe those pesky squirrels will be less attracted to my bird feeders if they have what looks like an abundance of acorns. 

Under the massive live oak, the staghorn fern thrives in the dappled light and reaches out with foliar fronds that give this tropical epiphyte it's name.

Yes. I know. 

These aren't the breath-taking, glorious reds, oranges, and yellows my friends in the northern less tropical or temperate climates enjoy, but I can't let my mind and heart go there. 

I could easily dwell on what others have or experience and I don't, but that's coveting, isn't it? 

And isn't coveting the root of discontent that says what God gives me isn't good enough? 

I've mentioned before that I'm not fond of bucket lists.  

That hasn't always been true. Just ask my husband. 

But as I experienced growth in gratitude and contentment, I began to recognize that a bucket list was a dwelling on and a counting of opportunities and experiences I don't have and therefore covet rather than a focus on being thankful for what I've already been given. 

I'm slowly making my way through a study of Romans once a week with a small group of  friends I love like sisters when Paul reminds me of the sin of coveting and how easily it tries to slip back into my heart. 

These sister-friends and I have talked about some of the ways to fight sin in our lives: to renew our minds with God's Word, to memorize scripture, to grow in our affections for Christ, and to intentionally {and cheerfully} replace sin with acts of obedience. 

In the chapter, What's Even Better than a Bucket List, The Broken Way, a daring path into the abundant life, Ann Voskamp writes:  
What if instead of sitting in life's waiting room, waiting for a chance for something good enough to happen to check off a bucket list--what if abundant living isn't about what you can expect from life, but what life can expect from you? p. 88 
Why grow the list of what I want to have instead of the list of what I can give?  Why not let the heart grow big with a love large enough that it breaks your heart and gives bits of you away? Does "real life" only happen when you get to pick some balmy destination and a cheap flight itinerary? Or is "real life" when you choose to be bread to all kinds of hungry? And maybe this is how your soul truly gets fed anyway?  p. 89 
Experiencing the whole world will not fill your bucket like experiencing giving yourself, and finding the meaning that will fill your soul.  p. 92
The meaning of being is givenness. Ask Christ.  p. 98
It's truly a very, very small offering in light of all I've been given, but rather than quote the whole chapter {or book}, I'm giving away a copy of The Broken Way to someone who promises to read it and to also #bethegift and #payitforward for someone else. Just leave a comment here {or on a link to this post on my facebook page} by midnight Tuesday, November 1st, and I'll put your name in the hat. 

I must warn you, though: The Broken Way will change you and break you in all the right places. 

To let myself be broken and loved...

Every day you can do one thing that you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.
Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way, p. 207

The decision was made for me, or I probably wouldn't have gone.  

How could I justify such extravagance? It was too costly. Too complicated, and too far from here to there. I haven't been well in weeks and fatigued from recent back-to-back flares and a trip to Louisiana. For goodness sakes. Even on good days I need help just to open a bottle of water. It's obvious I can't travel alone, and a traveling companion would only multiply the costs. 

Even worse, what if I go and feel too bad to do anything? 

Just in case, I tell my girlfriends--the ones who meet with me weekly to study, There's a one percent chance I'm going to Canada to see my friend Ann next week so I might need to cancel Bible study.  

When Louis bought me a new camera three weeks earlier, I hadn't told him what I'd been thinking. How I'd secretly longed for a new camera and lenses, but the cost was simply too much. Afterall, I thought. I'm no spring chicken. There's too many years behind me and not enough ahead to justify that kind of expense. What would be the point? 

Escalating chronic health issues that aren't responding to the current treatment plan combined with an overall lack of physical well-being left me vulnerable to the lies, and I was sensing a loss of purpose. I concluded that my ability to contribute anything of real value to those around me, much less anyone else, had faded along with my old camera and lens. I hadn't said one word to anyone about wanting a new camera when Louis up and decided I needed one.

Two days after we brought that new camera home, I hadn't taken it out of the box. I probably should return it, I thought. It's a luxury I don't deserve. And Louis tells me to accept the invitation to fly off to Canada and to take Emily with me? 

My Emily makes all the reservations. Roundtrip flights from Ft. Myers to Toronto with layovers in Charlotte. A hotel near the airport in Toronto.

She manages my luggage, opens my water bottles, drives the rental car, and buys me lattes. She keeps me moving, and when my body simply won't keep up, she slows the pace and lets me rest. I'm sure she's embarrassed by her slow old mama with no sense of fashion, but she keeps it to herself.

In Ann's back yard, we sit on quilt-covered bales of hay near the tables of coffee, juice and muffins while Ann gives herself fully to each of her guests. I see how she loves. How she kneels and bends low, gently grabs shoulders and cups faces. She leans into, moves toward and gives everyone her undivided attention. Selfishly I want her all to myself. To sit close and tell her the many ways her beautiful words have changed me, but I wander out to the edge of the field where her writing cabin stands and pluck a dandelion seedhead out of the ground. I hold the downy globe up to the sun and thank God for the gift of this perfect fall day.

If just for that moment, I forget all the ways I feel unworthy of the gift and let myself be loved.

A few miles from Ann's backyard, a welcome sign leans against the outside wall near the doors to the barn. Once inside, Emily and I find seats in the back row of chairs facing the corner stage where Ann reads passages from The Broken Way and Jason Gray sings. They both say the same thing, more or less. The broken are healed by being the broken for others. Tables of hot coffee and cider, plates of cheese and crackers, bowls of apples and popcorn, and trays of sliced pumpkin bread spiraled with cream cheese line the opposite side of the room. It's the most generous hospitality, and Ann stays until the last guest leaves.  

Three days after leaving us at the airport in the wee hours of the morning, Louis returns to pick us up at midnight. Just six short hours later, my dearest, tired Emily is up and off to work, and I open the large manila envelope with a copy of The Broken Way that arrived while I was gone. 

I read late into the night.

As long as I've known Ann, I've believed that she loves and lives like Jesus as much as anyone I know, but I haven't just believed it. I've seen and tasted the fruit of her sacrificial giving and serving and the wholeness she experiences as a result. Ann doesn't preach Jesus, she aims to live a cross-shaped life, and it's Jesus I see in Ann.
Those who claim Christ aren't only saved by a crucified Savior; their lives are shaped by Him. 
The cross isn't some cheap symbol of faith; it's the exact shape we embody as the life of Christ. When we won't see the suffering--who are all of us--we never form our lives like our Savior's.
The Broken Way, p. 268
In The Broken Way, Ann dares us to live #thebrokenway the same way she dared us to count One Thousand Gifts: by tenderly sharing her own brokenness and daring herself to live the cruciform life -- the only path to abundance.

A week ago I went to Canada and let myself be broken and loved... God who whispered in Louis' ear that maybe he should buy me a new camera and send me to Canada, and Louis who heard God's voice and sacrificial ly responds. Emily who patiently cared for her old mama and gave me the gift of time and presence. Ann and her family who opened their home to strangers and gave the gift of  hospitality and words of love and affirmation and a renewed sense of purpose in the dare to live #thebrokenway.
The only life worth living is the life you lose.

The Broken Way, p. 209
Join me on this path into the abundant life #TheBrokenWay? Click on the photo below and check out all the free gifts you'll receive by pre-ordering a copy of The Broken Way by Monday.

I'm pretty sure there's one thing I can do today for someone that I wish I could do for everyone.


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





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]


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