Backyard Bears

At times, God shows up where I least expect Him and He whispers to my heart, without words, “Joy, watch this.”

I step out onto the third story terrace and look out as a mama bear and her cubs emerge from the thick foliage into the open area of the backyard. JCP-2149She will dig and rummage for food as the two little ones tumble and climb not too far from her reach. JCP-2067I am reminded that they do not worry about what they will eat or drink. She does not store up extra for her babies. She steps out in faith (of sorts) and trusts that she will find the food needed for herself and her little ones. JCP-2139-2It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. In a few moments of a summer afternoon, in the backyard of my sister in law’s mountain home, God shows up and in a tangible expression of love, shows me that He sees me, reminding me that I am His and He is mine.

His grace is bountiful and beauty resides among the rain-soaked, wooded mountainside, in the form of a mama bear and her two bear cubs.JCP-2144

Traveling with Boys

JCP-2-2As the boys grow older I am more intrigued with the differences between them and me. It’s incredible how they are created with an innate sense of wildness. They need adventure every day. It doesn’t have to be extravagant adventure, it can be nature. Every time my boys are loose in nature, it’s an adventure.JCP-49

We recently took a trip to the North Carolina mountains. We spent the days hiking, wading through streams, throwing rocks in creeks and using our “outside voices”…a lot.

I am constantly learning and growing from the way they experience life.

While on the trip some things were made very clear to me about “how to” travel (successfully) with boys.
photoThey need to;
Wander off the path
Throw leaves in the river (at the same time so they can watch them race and see who wins)
Skip rocks at the waterfall.
Walk through spider webs and feel the sticky strings tug the little hairs on their face as they pull it free from their skin.
Take their shirts off and flex their adventurer muscles
at the top of their lungs and make funny animal sounds.

They crave excitement and uncertainty.
They want to see how big God is,
how powerful nature can be and
how beautiful wild flowers/weeds grow.

They need to pee on trees and hock a loogie from the bridge.
They need to hear their voice echo through a canyon and laugh at the mystery of how it sounds.
They need to touch every insect they see and hold a salamander.
Stop and look at the trail they’ve left behind.
Plunge their hands into the mud and get dirt under their nails.
Taste the raindrops and feel the sun kiss the tops of their cheeks, leaving behind its warmth and color.
They need to test the limits of “No Trespassing” signs and jump from the highest point they can find.

They need to wade through lakes with sharp rock beds
See how raindrops form on petals and recognize how delicate beauty can be.

They need to balance on railing, no matter how far off the ground.

They need to play checkers on stamped cement by hopping to their next move.
They need to see all the colors infused into life.
They need to stand atop the largest rock they can find and say in their loudest voice, I’M KING OF THE ROCKS!!!

They need to believe they can be whomever they want to be. A hero, a ranger, a rock star, a professional salamander finder.

They need to know we support their adventures, endeavors and conquers.JCP-30
They need to know we believe in their dreams, no matter how grandiose.

They need to know, because one day when they face decisions about their future and we are not standing beside them, our voice will echo in their mind just like theirs did in the canyon years before. What they hear is crucial to the men they are becoming.

So, moms of boys, the next time he hands you a rock that looks like the last 23 rocks he’s said he “has to take home”, put it in your pocket to add to the collection.

JCP-47When he picks those weeds that look so much like flowers and brings you a handful with a big grin on his face, I beg you, take them, exclaiming in your most excited voice how incredibly beautiful they are and how thoughtful he is for choosing you to give them to.

Take a picture of his finds in his little hand realizing that one day his hands will be big and he will no longer be interested in showing you the petals of the flower he found on the ground.JCP-59So, do you “Have boys will travel?” Where do you like to go? What are you most looking forward to experiencing with them this Summer? Or maybe you want to add to the list about traveling with boys. Go for it, the comment section is yours.

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Where is God now?

How could I ever look at anything and ask, “Where’s God?!” All I have to do is look out my window. I can see God everywhere, in everything.
But I have been in that place. More than once. Spiritual desolation where God is nowhere to be found. That corner of hell with gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

That place where a young mother is diagnosed with cancer and dies less than a year later leaving a husband and two young children that she worked so hard to have.

The place where baby’s who are “incompatible with life” are carried full-term, the mother’s belly sliced open to give baby life and after a few short days out of the womb the mother is left with memories, photos and a wound far greater than the one from the blade of the scalpel.

The place where ends don’t meet.

There’s no happily ever after.

Where regret is a constant companion and depression is the norm.

Where one begins to doubt heaven and the existence of a God at all.

What kind of God would take the life of a 17-year-old girl with all the promise in the world, one beautiful day after a small town football game? Her mother recalls her saying, “It’s the most beautiful day! I don’t remember a day quite like it?” That was one of the last things she heard her daughter say.

Who wants to know a God that watches two small children lay flowers on their mother’s grave and ask their daddy night after night, “Where’s mommy?”

If God is so good wouldn’t he grant the wish of the young wife who has cried herself to sleep for the last 5 years when the pregnancy test is negative…again.

What about the children who are sold into a world of sex and abuse. Being promised to the dirtiest of men who use them up and throw them away when they’re finished. Surely God doesn’t see or hear their whimper for help. How could he and not do anything about it?!

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, without a doubt in my mind, is that God is good…all the time…even when it doesn’t feel like it. I have crouched, head in hands, digging nails into my scalp, hoping the pain would cure my numbness.

I have been in my corner of self-inflicted hell with seemingly no way out while making promise after promise to my Creator of what I would abstain from if only he would get me out of the current circumstances and save me from myself.I have committed heinous acts thought to push me far beyond forgiveness.

Here is what I know. The same God who calmed the sea when he told Peter to walk out on the water to him, calms my heart when I don’t understand his plan. Just like Peter, when I take my eyes off of him, I sink into the very thing I think capable of overtaking me.

I want to have faith. I do. I want to see every situation through the eyes of a just and loving God with a plan far greater than my own…but more times than not, I don’t. Half the time I shake my fist to the heavens while the other half I lay face down on the floor, arms out, palms open, “Thy will be done, Lord. Not my will, but thine.

I don’t understand his ways. Why should I? I was never promised full disclosure. If I were granted understanding, would there be a need for faith? What would it really change?

He is a God who gives and takes away.

His love endures forever and ever.

I believe.

The only other option is the opposite of hope. A life of uncertainty, waiting for the next “thing” to happen. Asking myself when atrocities occur what I could have done to prevent it, when none of it is within the realm of my control, nor would I want it to be.

God is God and I am not.
All knowing.
All seeing.
All wise.
The same yesterday, today and forever.

There is one thing I do have control over.
The choices I make.
In this moment,
I choose faith.
I choose not knowing the whole story, but trusting that it will play out as it should.
I choose joy.
I choose grace and mercy.
I choose to see people as God with skin on.
I choose life.
I choose Christ.
I choose freedom.
I choose trust.
I choose forgiveness.

I choose to go out on my back porch, take in beauty that is far too majestic to capture, inhale cleansing breaths through my nose and into every cell in my body, all that is good, all that is well, all that is pure and healing. While exhaling the “what if?” “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?” I choose the something far greater awaiting me, if I choose to believe.

Among the thorns

I have walked into a time of my life that is busier than any I have known before. 24 hours doesn’t seem to be enough to get everything done that needs doing. Plates are spinning high above my head on the imaginary poles I balance. And not well, mind you. The sound of china shattering happens more often than I’d like, but for the most part, I keep up the insidious act of holding it all together.

Recently I found myself asking, “Who am I…really?” “What will unfold over the next several months as I plunge into uncharted territory?” (For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, I will be leaving my current job position that I have become extremely comfortable in and exploring other opportunities at the end of December. It’s terrifying and exciting all at the same time.) What will I do, you ask. Well…I’m figuring that out.

I’m a writer.
A lover of words.
A poet at heart.
A romantic in the deepest sense of the word.
I love change.
I have fallen in love with photography.
I no longer see the world the way I once saw it.
I feel closer to God…looking at life through my lens.
The details that I never noticed now become impossible to miss.
And I will never see, even the smallest insect the same way again.

There is one place I love to go when I am stressed. This past weekend I didn’t even know I wanted to, but Chris knew I needed to go. It had been two very long work days and I was exhausted, but still eager to walk into my sanctuary of nature.

I had my camera, but didn’t plan on taking any pictures as I had been strategically photographing for several hours before I arrived. And then I stepped into one of the green houses.
Beams of sunlight streamed in across the plants and brick flooring.
The mist of humidity made it seem like you could hold the light in your hands.

It was magical and serene. It was beautiful and fragile.
It was an opportunity to be in the moment. To see God in all things. To inhale deeply and freely.

Nothing empty’s a life of the beauty of the moment faster than hurry. Call it what you will, but I believe it was God’s way of not only telling me, but showing me that his light will penetrate through absolutely anything. There’s no stopping it. There’s no hiding it. It will be made known, exposing not only the dirt and dust, but the beauty and luster of creation.

As I turned another corner, there it was again. Only in a different way. The light that pushes its way through that which tries to contain it. God knows that many times for me things have to be made blatantly obvious before I will recognize them for what they are. Before I will acknowledge the gift and the Giver.

The tension across my shoulders loosened and the stress melted away. I wasn’t anywhere else in the world. I was exactly where my feet were. In that moment. In the streams of sunlight accentuating the different shades of green on the leaves. The long slender vines stood out in a way they never had.
Okay, God, you have my attention.

From that point on, as I walked through the place I have been a dozen times before, it was as if I had never seen the surroundings. I would get lost in the detail of an orchid or the ripples of water in the copper basin. I allowed the scents of flowers in their last season of bloom to fill my nostrils and relax my mind.

As I walked 10 more steps or so, the most beautiful sight came into view.
My boys were drenched in sunlight. I watched as they moved their hands back and forth through the beams, laughing and squinting their eyes while looking up for the source of light. The tops of their heads appeared to be glowing. I couldn’t help but laugh. God, I am so undeserving of such beauty and blessings. The fact that you would give a wretch like me a day like this one proves that you are a God of mercy and grace. Thank you…Father…Thank you.

There is something God whispered to me continually through every petal, leaf, blade of grass and beam of sunlight. It was this…You are mine. Treasured. Sacred. Adored. Heir to the throne of grace. Child of the King. This life that you toil so to figure out has already been decided. This time that you say is not enough is in fact fleeting. These moments of little boys with faces full of wonder is just that, a moment. Rest. Listen. Breathe. All will be well.

I truly believe that it will.

Here are some of the beautiful captures of the day. I would encourage you to take a moment as you look through these pictures to remind yourself of how valuable you are to the Creator of all things. Blessings to you on this journey, my friend.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

For the photo challenge this week we headed out to one of my favorite places on earth this morning, Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It is a world of its own. One of the really cool things about the Gardens is that they receive endangered species, help them multiply and slowly release them back into their environment.

These frogs have always fascinated me. They are as beautiful as they are poisonous. There was a large piece of aquarium glass between them and me. Good thing as I’m certain I would have moved in too close.

The glass frog of the Nymphargus genus, which is potentially new to science, that was discovered in the mountains of the Darien region in Colombia.

Arrow poison frog. These frogs are highly prevalent in the forests of Central and South America. This is a newly discovered species, found at the Jatun Sacha Reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Asian Black Spiny Toads (Bufo (Duttaphrynus) melanostictus)

Green tree frog found in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.
I’m not sure where this little guy is from. If you know, please leave the answer in the comments section.


Watching the Orangutan

We were at the zoo this past weekend and I had such a great time watching this orangutan do somersaults (while eating) to get where he wanted to go. He had so much character. It was a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy the slideshow.

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These moments were captured using a Canon 60D, 70-200mm f/2.8 L, in sports mode.


Travel Theme: Couples

“Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness;
however big Tigger seems to be, remember that
he wants as much kindness as Roo.”
~ A.A. Milne

“A little boy is truth with dirt on its face,
sunshine with a cut on its finger
hope for the future with a frog in its pocket.”
~ Callen AudricI wonder if the giraffe, with her elegant neck,
has to stretch before getting up in the morning?
Do you think she knows the uniqueness of her proportions and her coat?
The way her eyelashes curl as if just coming from a make-over
and her long black tongue…
she isn’t something to be explained only marveled.
Each week Ailsa over at Where’s my backpack gives a challenge. If you would like to participate and/or see the many other takes on the theme “Couples”
visit her and stay a while.