1400. Shall I dance…

I hear the sound of voices singing joyful hymns of the gospel,
Shall I dance with thee, O Lord, in the breeze at dawn?
Yes, says the Lord of my soul and the dance of life!

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I hear the sound of voices singing joyful hymns of the gospel.
Shall I dance with thee O Lord in the morning light?
Yes, says the Lord of my soul and the dance of life!

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I hear the sound of voices singing joyful hymns of the gospel.
Shall I dance with thee O Lord upon the dewy grass?
Yes, says the Lord of my life and the dance!

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I hear the sound of voices singing joyful hymns of the gospel.
Shall I dance with thee all the day long O Lord?
Yes, says the Lord of my soul and the dance of life!

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I hear the sound of voices singing joyful hymns of the gospel.
Shall I dance with thee O Lord when the evening shadows fall?
Yes, says the Lord of my soul and the dance of life!

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Then O Lord when day is done
and sleep takes me into its arms,
will You watch over me until we dance again
upon the morrow’s stage?
Yes, says the Lord of the dance
and the lover of my immortal soul!

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And when I awaken again in this dark and decaying world,
may I quake in your presence visible in all that surrounds me!
And may You refresh my vitality and strength for another day!
Yes, says the Lord of the dance and the lover of my immortal soul!

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 11.11.04 PM.pngThis is my story
This is my song
Loving my Savior
all the day long!

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. ~Psalm 143:10  ✝

**Photos found on Pinterest; collage created by Natalie

1330. Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light. ~John Milton

In a futile attempt to erase our past,
we deprive the community of our healing gift.
If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame,
our inner darkness can neither be illuminated
nor become a light for others.
~Brennan Manning

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Everyone has a story no matter what their age. We who are older however are actually made up of a series of stories, and in each of them tides turned along the way or remained static because of the choices we made and/or the chances we took. And one of the most critical choices each one of us has to make is whether or not to be authentically who God intended us to be. Most of us have somewhat of a grasp of that early on, but adolescence is and was a game changer. Living through those years is like what Virginia Woolf once said, “the eyes of others are our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” During the formative, teen years rather than remaining true to oneself, many try to be what the eyes of others think they should be and to think thoughts and to have ideas that this body of “they” believe to be “cool.” Because teens, like everyone else, want to be liked and accepted, their innocence and naïveté prompts many of them to succumb partially or wholly to the standards and choices of others in order to remain “free” from the prisons and cages of their peers, the intimidating, corporate “they.” And I was just as guilty of that as anyone else until one night, years and years later, in the middle of a very emotionally and physically painful night, it dawned on me that though there was no one there in the darkness to help me cope, to soothe me, or to stop the pain. And that was the mid-life game changer that motivated me to walk back far enough through time to remember who Natalie genuinely was, to embrace her, and to walk into the future as the Natalie I was meant to be. A subsequent choice I made was not to let what had broken me define who Natalie was and is but instead with God’s grace to find my inner light and let it shine even if at times it yet has to break forth through tears.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ~Brené Brown

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…” ~Matthew 5:14  ✝

**Collage of developing ages in Natalie’s life gathered and put in chronological order by Natalie

1328. It is an old story, this irresistible and ceaseless onflow of life and time… ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
~William Blake

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Dead and brown is all that once was verdant and full of life. And again today a north wind blew to scatter more of autumn’s splendrous, leafy remains. Willy nilly the leaves whirled about and over the ground as if they were happy children chasing one another. Though a smattering of leaves yet dons a tree or two, for the most part the yard is a graveyard of clattering skeletons, desiccated leaves and withered flowers, bare soil and beige sod. Too, the beating heart of Creation’s life has grown ever so faint, but nonetheless it is discernible to the listening, longing ear. All the while beneath the surface, there’s an entirely different story evolving. For it is there that miraculous, even magical, proceedings are taking place and moving to the rhythm of winter’s muted heartbeat. And as they advance, they gather strength from their sacred sources, mother nature and Father God. So carry on tiny embryos of earth’s womb; I shall wait patiently and not lose heart nor faith while surrounded by this death and decay for I trust and know you will rise in the Spring and once more thrill me beyond the ability to speak so that only squeals of joy will fill the space herein between heaven and earth.

How can those who do not garden,
who have no lot in the great fraternity
of those who watch the changing year
as it affects the earth and its growth,
how can they keep warm their hearts in winter?
~Francis King

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” ~Genesis 8:22  ✝

**Photos taken by Natalie; collage by Natalie

1318. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples… ~John Muir

The oaks and pines and their brethren of the wood,
have seen so many suns rise and set,
so many seasons come and go,
and so many generations pass into silence,
that they may well wonder what
“the story of the trees” would be to us
if they had tongues to tell it,
or if we had ears fine enough to understand.
-Author Unknown

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When one thinks about earth’s courts in such a way, he/she realizes that trees, like us, stand on hallowed ground, and so it’s not surprising that throughout the ages trees have been given deep and sacred meanings. By observing the growth and death of trees, the flexible nature of their branches, the annual reoccurrence of their foliage, humanity has seen trees as powerful symbols of growth, decay, and resurrection. Trees and their way of providing shade and shelter are adored by both wildlife and humanity alike, and the views afforded from their lofty heights are to be envied. Trees are more than simply the largest elements of the landscape or garden; over time they become like venerated companions that unfailingly stand by us throughout the seasons and storms of life. Given their size and the fact that they prevent soil erosion, provide weather-sheltered ecosystems in and under their leaves, play a vital role in the production of oxygen and the reduction of carbon dioxide, moderate ground temperatures, and produce orchard fruits, trees speak to us of the largesse and power of God.

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Soon and in a blaze of glory the trees bearing the leaves in my photos will be stripped of their foliage, but though barren and seemingly no more than a silent sentry where they stands, somewhere in their core their music will play on. Muir’s idea that the fibers of the tree’s being thrills “like harp strings” at all times is true and answers Walt Whitman’s inquiry, “Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” The music of life plays on in all of Creation, and like God’s presence it is never absent from us. We may not always hear the music but the melodies are there. We may be absent from the Lord, but He is never absent from us. He can be found in the lights of the sky, the colors of earth, the warmth of the sun, in waters that flow, in the wind that can be felt but not seen, and in the boughs of mighty trees. In his Celtic Psalter J. Philip Newell uses the image of trees as a revelation of God’s presence, “Like light dappling through the leaves of a tree and wind stirring its branches, like birdsong sounding from the heights of an orchard and the scent of blossom after rainfall, so you dapple and sound in the human soul, so you stir into motion all that lives.” When our ears and eyes weren’t “fine enough to understand,” God sent us His son. As we follow the star to the manger in celebration of Christ’s birth in a few weeks, may the music in all that God has made be heard, acknowledged, and honored.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. -Luke 11:10  ✝

O come, O come Emmanuel!

1256. Never say “no” to pie. ~Al Roker

We must have pie.
Stress cannot exist in
the presence of pie.
~David Mamet

It was luscious lemon meringue pie at the deli again today, and whilst I was gobbling mine down, I recalled a “pie story” blessing, the importance of which was not the pie, nor was it a lemon pie. Instead it was a random act of kindness cherry pie!

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I was five days short of being 30 years old, when my one and only child was born. As it turned out she was born on a day when the hospital had been having record numbers of babies all week long so I had to be kept in the recovery area all night until and if a room became available the next morning. My visitors, who were allowed in briefly to see me in recovery, had all been able to see Nikki, but sadly I had not seen her yet, and they wouldn’t bring her to me until I was in a room. When morning came, a room did become available so they took me up and brought my baby too me for the first time. However, I only held her briefly because I was having chills and shaking so badly I was afraid I might drop her. So I rang for a nurse to come take her back to the nursery and take me to the bathroom. The nurse asked me why I was shaking like that, and I told her it was because I was freezing cold. She quickly stuck a thermometer in my mouth, then yanked it out almost immediately, and commented that I didn’t have any fever. Next she got me up to take me to the bathroom and when I sat down on the toilet I passed out. When I finally came to, there were an assortment of doctors and nurses who were worried that I’d had been having a seizure. As it turns out I had a fever of 105 degrees but not a seizure. So they immediately launched into what would become a 9 day campaign to bring my fever down, to determine where I had an infection, and to keep me from infecting the baby with whatever it was. As a result all they would do to alleviate my angst about the situation was roll Nikki down to my room in her little bed and let me walk to the door so I could at least see her from a distance a few minutes each day. Needless to say I was completely bummed! When day five, my 30th birthday, dawned they had finally discovered where and what kind of infection it was, but until the antibiotics, which had had to be changed several times, finally started significantly kicking in they wouldn’t let me go home yet. So when the phone rang that morning, I answered it in an extremely pissy mood. On the other end of the line was a voice I didn’t recognize who was singing happy birthday to me. When she finished she asked how I was, and I said, “lousy,” to which she replied, “well I hope you have a good day and hung up.” Okay let’s see! I couldn’t go home, I couldn’t hold my baby, I couldn’t have visitors until after 2 in the afternoons! What do you think? Helluva a good 30th birthday or not?!

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About an hour later as I was lying there crying and feeling very sorry for myself, my mom came in carrying a small, freshly baked cherry pie and singing happy birthday. Stunned I sat up and asked, “What are you doing here? How did you get in? It’s not 2 o’clock yet!” She told me that she had gotten a call at home that I was very distraught and that she needed to get up to the hospital as soon as possible and bring me some kind of birthday surprise. And then the female voice told her that she’d just need to tell them at the desk who she was and they would let her in. So Mom quickly baked a cherry pie and came on up. Needless to say it was an amazing gift of grace that I sorely needed that day. It wasn’t until I got ready to leave the hospital 4 days later that one of the other nurses told me who had called me that day. It was the head nurse on that floor, and the day before she had noticed on my chart that the next day was my birthday. So she had taken time out of her day off, first to call and sing to me, then to call the hospital to see if they had my mother’s name and phone number, and finally to call and send my mother on an errand of mercy. I don’t know what others would call that, but as far as I’m concernd it was God’s grace in action with an “earth” angel He had appointed to deliver it. Sadly I was so glad to be able to hold my baby at long last and get to go home that last day that I didn’t even think to ask the head nurse’s name so I could call or write to thank her. But I think of her often and am so grateful for her selfless act of kindness.

You(God) gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit. ~Job 10:12 ✝

**My daughter was born on 10-12-72. What a coincidence that the scripture I chose is from Chapter 10 and verse 12 of Job! Or is it just coincidence?!

**Pie images via Pinterest

1228. Some days are for living. Others are for getting through. ~Malcolm S. Forbes

A good day
is a good day.

A bad day is
a good story.

At the end of the day
it’s all good.
~Glennon Melton

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Hmmmm?! Interesting poem up above! Okay then, here goes with the story of my bad day:

I wish I hadn’t had a crappy-assed night last night, but I did.
I wish my head didn’t hurt like hell, but it does.
I wish my feet weren’t painfully on fire, but they are.
I wish I could say it’s raining, but it’s not; it’s only occasional spitting and there’s not much of that.
I wish I could say that it’s cooler, but since the humidity is higher than the temperature, it still feels hot as hell outside.
I wish I weren’t being whiney about all this, but I am.
I wish I didn’t hate all the things that some say to try to make bad days better, but I do right now.
I wish I were clinging harder to God’s goodness and his faithfulness today, but I’m not.
I wish I were able to be more grateful right now, but I’m not.
I wish I knew why I have to deal with so much pain so often, but I don’t.
I wish I knew how at the end of the day, this will all be good, but I “effen” don’t!
I wish that something chocolate, sounded good and could make it better, but it can’t!
Now don’t we all wish Natalie would quit her wishin’ negativity!!!

Doesn’t sound like much of a story to me unless one finds merit it someone else’s pissin’and moanin’!

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“…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I(Jesus) have overcome the world.” ~Excerpt from John 16:33  ✝

**Flower image taken by me in my yard today; lower image via Pinterest

1185. We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

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Today is not just another day, it is the one day that is given to you today. It is a gift, the only gift of a day that you have right now. And so the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response, to the great gift that this unique day is, and if you learn to respond as if it were the first day of your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.

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Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, the incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment. Look at the sky; we so rarely look at the sky, so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, but we don’t think of all the different nuances of weather. We just think of good weather and bad weather. This day, right now, this unique weather, maybe a kind that may never come in that form again. The formation of clouds in the sky may never be the same than it is right now, open your eyes and look at that.

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Look at the faces of people that you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom not only their own story but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far. And in this present moment, this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations and so many all over the world, flows together and meets you here like life giving water if you only open your heart and drink. Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to you. You flip a switch and there is electric light. You turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water and drinkable water. It is a gift that millions and millions of people will never experience. ~Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine Monk

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34  ✝

**Images via Pinterest except for middle one that I took at the bottom; collages by Natalie