1394. I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. ~John Steinbeck

There’s a vastness here(Texas) 
and
I believe that the people who
 are born
here breathe 
that vastness into their soul.
They dream big dreams 
and think big thoughts,
because 
there is nothing to hem them in.
~Conrad Hilton

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I wasn’t born here in Texas although my mother was, and we didn’t move here until I was 13 years old. Then in college I met and married a born and bred Texas man who put an end to any dreams I might have had of ever leaving here. But I’ve come to love much of the mystique and the vastness of the unique Texas experience just NOT the intense summer and sometimes into autumn heat. It has always very been difficult for me to withstand these excessively sweltering temperatures as well as their often accompanying high levels of humidity. So until it begins months later to subside again and being ever-so-thankful for air-conditioning I incarcerate myself indoors. Unfortunately my self-imposed imprisonment lasts much longer than I would like. However, the Lord in His goodness always answers our calls of distress and finds ways to provide that which we need in some way. So it was when I bought a house with lots of windows so I can still see outside and then later purchased a digital camera to record outdoor scenes and store them on my computer for indoor viewing. Now at least I don’t feel so totally cut off from nature. How blessed are we that the work of His hands is as apparent as ever in His world.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress… May He send you help from the sanctuary… May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your praise offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy…and…lift up banners in the name of God. May the Lord grant all your requests. ~Excerpts from Psalm 20:1-5 ✝

Well it’s bulls and blood
It’s dust and mud
It’s the roar of a Sunday crowd
It’s the white in his knuckles
The gold in his buckle
He’ll win the next go ’round
It’s boots and chaps
It’s cowboy hats
It’s spurs and latigo
It’s the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain
And they call the thing rodeo
These are excerpted lyrics from a song
by Garth Brooks entitled RODE0

**All but two photos in my collage above were taken by me

1243. Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. ~Mary Oliver

Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way
by Mary Oliver

If you’re John Muir you want trees
to live among. If you’re Emily
(or Natalie), a garden will do.
Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.

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When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow.

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Anything that touches.

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God, or the gods, are invisible, quite
understandable. But holiness is visible,
entirely.

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Some words will never leave God’s mouth,
no matter how hard you listen.

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In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.

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All important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers.

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To understand many things you must reach
out of your own condition.

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For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!

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Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still
it explains nothing.

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The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.

Stop and be astonished… ~Excerpt from Isaiah 29: 9 ✝

**All images taken by Natalie; the 3 collages by Natalie

1096. It would be infinitely lonely to live in a world without blessing. ~John O’Donohue

Though suffering and chaos befall us,
they can never quench the inner light of providence.
~John O’Donohue

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There is a quiet light that shines in every heart.
It draws no attention to itself,
though it is always secretly there.
It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty,
our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life.
Without this subtle quickening our days
would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon
would ever awaken our longing.
Our passion for life is quietly sustained from
somewhere in us that is welded to the energy
and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what
enables us to recognize and receive our
very presence here as blessing.
We enter the world as strangers who all at once
become heirs to a harvest of memory,
spirit, and dream that has long preceded us
and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us.
The gift of the world is our first blessing.

This is the opening paragraph of the book
“To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings” 

by John O’Donohue

They will receive blessing from the Lord… ~Excerpt from Psalm 24:5  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest

1053. Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle….a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. ~Barbara Winkler

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream.
The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg,
and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs.
Dreams are the seedlings of realities.
~James Allen

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Part of the genius of God’s grand design is that we awaken every day to a fresh flowing of His energy and vitality that has been stored in the seeds of our being, seeds that possess the same strength as that of the rising sun, earth’s swelling seas, and its fertile plains. An excellent time to look for the shining of His everlasting light in the “sanctuary of the soul” is in the first waking moments of each new day. That inward realm is where doors open to the germination of new life because inside each one of us the Lord has planted His “seeds of greatness.” There’s never a moment in life when either in and of ourselves or in the people around us that there are not yet unopened gifts of promise. Simply put, “heaven’s creativity on earth” is born in our bodies, and therein the Master’s “sacred hopes” are hidden. And His hopes come to fruition through the germination of our gifts and through the catalyst of prayer when we lift up “the agonies of life in the world” and ask for grace where “the human soul has grown hard” and lost sight of God’s light. May the “soil” of this week be such that the precious, holy seeds of the uniqueness that is you fully come to fruition.

Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? ~1 Corinthians 3:16  ✝

**Image found on Pinterest

818. Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Smell the rain and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential…. ~Ashley Smith

The doors we open and close
each day decide the lives we live.
~Flora Whittemore

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Life is…
Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise it, fulfill it.
Life is a sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
~Mother Teresa

In Him(Christ) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. ~John 1:4  ✝

**Edited image via Pinterest

766. Paris is always a good idea! ~Audrey Hepburn

…wherever you go for the rest of your life,
it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
~Ernest Hemingway

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In the summer of 2013 about 6 weeks before our 50th wedding anniversary, James and I, along with our family, did in fact fly over the big pond. We landed first in London, and after three days there we took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland, which was another huge, huge treat for me. (My dad had worked for Southern Pacific Railroad when we were growing up and every summer we traveled to places all over the US by train, and I loved, loved, loved riding and sleeping on trains.) After 3 days in Scotland we flew to Dublin for 2 and a half days. And from Dublin… Are your ready for this?! Could I have a drum roll please!!! We flew to Paris! Regrettably we had booked a hotel in Versailles, instead of Paris proper, and so after being picked up by a prearranged taxi, we went  straight to our hotel to check in our luggage. Since it was quite late when we arrived at the hotel and we had yet to attempt traveling on the RER (Metro in Paris), we spent the evening in the town of Versailles. However, even though all I’d gotten to see of Paris that first day were views from the plane and a speeding taxi, it was enough to start the adrenaline flowing. The next morning when we got off the Metro in Paris and turned to walk onto the Pont Alexandre III bridge, one of the most ornate and extravagant bridges across the Seine, the excitement exploded into breathtaking fullness–so much so that I came to an abrupt halt right where I stood, frozen in place and completely stunned by everything that now lay before my eyes. The dream had at long last come to pass, and what I was seeing was even more dramatic and wondrous than I’d imagined. In that instant that bridge became a part of me and I belonged to it and it to me. Then when I turned to hear what my daughter was saying and the Eiffel Tower came into view, uncontrollable tears began streaming down my time-worn face. The teenage girl, who had fallen in love with the French language and Paris as a senior in high school, was finally witnessing her dream come true. Though, I could barely utter the words to explain the tears to my daughter, she somehow knew to put her arm around me and stand there with me as I took it all in. Then as we turned to walk across the bridge to join the others, I was stung on the side of my face by a bee. But ya know, no matter how bad that sting hurt and it did, there was nothing, simply nothing, that could have kept me from relishing that moment on the Pont Alexandre that glorious morning. I was “home” in a sense, and in less than 2 weeks, we are going “home” to Paris to feast for the second time. This time our hotel is between the Eiffel Tower and the Pont Alexandre. Imagine that?! My, oh my, oh my! How very, very good God is!!! By the way, I was thrilled that James fell in love with Paris from the get go, but it’s probably a very good thing that he didn’t say something silly like, “I wish we’d come here years earlier.”

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. ~Psalm 62:5  ✝

**The Pont Alexandre III, the Beaux-Arts style bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. (Pictures in collage are mine.)

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756. Because the purpose of any descent is always in order to ascend. ~Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Life is a song – sing it.
Life is a game – play it.
Life is a challenge – meet it.
Life is a dream – realize it.
Life is a sacrifice – offer it.
Life is love – enjoy it.
~Sai Baba

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So it was that upward and onward I went into my junior year–singing a new song, playing a new game, dreaming of Paris, and attempting to meet the challenges of life and school. But the sacrificing and loving part were still on hold. I had taken my mom’s advice about getting a teaching certificate.  To do that I had had to choose a second teaching field, and because French had always been so easy for me I opted to take Spanish. But wait just a minute. Ya know, since I really didn’t want to be a teacher, the sacrificing really had begun in a way. Nevertheless I began taking Spanish as well as learning more French.  In one of my 3rd year French classes we were having fun trying to read LE PETIT PRINCE, and when not in class or working for the Dean, I was continuing to have a great deal of fun playing bridge. Hmmmm? Now that I think back, around the time of my 20th birthday in October, my friend Danny was taking me home after a bridge game and we were philosophizing, as college students often do, about this, that, and the other. During the conversation the subject of marriage came up. Since I still had had no serious romantic love interests, I glibly replied that I didn’t think I would ever get married. Danny responded by saying that he had heard that if you bet someone $50 that you wouldn’t get married in the coming year, it would surely happen. I laughed out loud at such nonsense and met the challenge with, “Okay, you’re on, hot shot.”

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. ~Psalm 51:17  ✝

**Images via the Internet and Pinterest; collage by Natalie