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

1393. Just like the lotus we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness, and radiate light into the world. ~Author Unknown

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Do you remember the last time you squealed with joy about something? Or do you at least remember seeing a young child squeal with delight? How about an almost 75 year old? Well it’s true; I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact I’m elated that just months away from my 75th birthday, there are things in this world that still can make me squeal with joy and amazement. I’ve long admired photographs of lotus flowers and knew a little of their history, but it never dawned on me that I would actually ever find one here in Texas. And yet just last week as my husband and I made our periodic run through our local Botanic Gardens that to my amazement I spotted from the car what I thought were the pods of a Lotus plant. And so camera in hand, I screeched for him to stop and jumped out of the car to go take a closer look. Not only were there the remaining pods of previous lotus blooms, but I actually spotted a bud. That’s when I squealed because it was almost like standing in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time, so much so that I half expected to see Adam and Eve eventually stroll by. So for days I went back to photograph the bud as it slowly opened. At long last it appeared that it would fully open last Wednesday, the day my sister and I had chosen for our weekly quilting get-to-together. But rather than cancel at the last minute I went on to her house since we both look forward to our quilting days and time spent together. Sadly it did fully bloom that day and by the following day when I went back most of the petals had already begun to fall away. But I had seen enough to remain fully thrilled and enthralled by the experience. And I know that where there once was one there will soon enough be more. The opening photo is a collage of lotus photos I found on Pinterest, but below as I reveal some of the fascinating information about the Lotus Flower here are the photos I took last week. They are not the best photos, but it was very hot so I was shooting fast, and I couldn’t get very close to them.

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The Lotus Flower is one of the earliest and most spiritually meaningful symbols in our world ever. It spans various thousand-year-old Eastern cultures and to this day holds enormous symbolic weight.

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So what is it about this mysterious blossom that people find so enrapturing? Its colorful bloom is an obvious suspect, but the lotus also has a life cycle unlike any other.

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Late in the evening the petals close and withdraw beneath the surface, then at daybreak, the flower again lifts up to the sky and unfolds its majestic crown. With its roots based in mud, it submerges every night into murky river water, and—undeterred by its dirty environment—it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.

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Although cultures have their own interpretations of this daily process, there is a general consensus among ancient texts that the lotus symbolizes spiritual enlightenment and rebirth.

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The lotus stunned people with its ability to dip into the grime and revive itself unscathed—an incredible daily cycle of life, death, and a sudden immaculate rebirth that can only be described as spiritual. But the flower also has a fascinating will to live. A lotus seed can withstand thousands of years without water, able to germinate over two centuries later.

“O Lord, by these things men live, And in all these is the life of my spirit; O restore me to health and let me live! ~Isaiah 38:16  ✝

1392. He prayeth best, who loveth best all things great and small; for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

There are 100,000 or so species of insects 
native to the United States. More than 1/3 
of these have been found in Texas. 
Texas has more different kinds of 
insects than any other state. 
~From a Texas Gov’t. publication
found on the Internet

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There is simply never a shortage of “beasties” on Texas soil especially when the temperatures soar. “Things great and small,” lovable and loathsome, have been on the move in the water, in the air, and on the land. Some float, some flutter, some fly, some are fleet of foot, some feed on the earth’s grasses and some crawl, slither, or graze in them. Scripture tells us that the good Lord saw that all He made was good, but being a less than perfect mortal, I struggle with loving and seeing the good in “all things great and small.” The fact that spiders, snakes, and “skeeters” bite and can kill has always had a great deal to do with my disdain for earth’s not so charming and/or endearing creatures. However, when I became an avid gardener, I began realizing more and more the intentionality of all that God made. Working the soil helped me see the genius of the “string of life” that connects everything on earth together in a beneficial series of interdependencies. Creation, on a grander scale of course, is much like the human body–everything in it is connected and it all works together for the good of the whole. In light of that complete awareness, slowly but surely, I’m learning to be more tolerant of the earth’s less endearing creatures. Toiling under the sun in all the seasons has shown me that built into Creation’s tapestry are purpose and provisions for all that God made. That awareness, despite my difficulty in embracing all of the “beasties” who dwell here in Texas has engendered and enlarged my trust, love, and faith in the Lord’s plans and His purposes as well as an acceptance of all that He has made.

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How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. When You send your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth. -Psalm 104:24, 30  ✝

Beware the ides of March…

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Today, the ides of March, is the average last freeze date in north Texas. There are times, although, when after the 15th of March we’ve experienced one or more late freezes which kill the smatterings of early spring blooms that often start here as early as February. But interestingly there’s a saying hereabouts which purports that if the pecan trees have not yet budded by the 15th, there will definitely be more freezes. So I keep an eye on my neighbor’s pecan tree as it actually has branches reaching over our common fence line, and I can easily see whether it has started budding or not. That’s why today I went out for my usual ides of March sojourn over to my north fence and looked up to find that tiny buds are beginning to appear on some of the tree’s branches. And silly as it may seem, I’ve been watching that circumstance for over a decade now, and it has never failed to be quite accurate in its forecast. So now I can and will bring the ferns out of the green house to enjoy breezy and fresher open air, and I will be able to move forward with more and more plantings. Isn’t it fascinating that seeds which fall to the ground during the growing season in summer and/or autumn know when it’s time to start germinating in the spring and that pecan trees and other already growing things know when it’s safe to start budding and leafing out. Indeed, the Lord’s designs, in all things, are amazingly far better laid out than “the plans of mice and men.”

**Crocus photo taken by Natalie

1351. Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star! ~Excerpted line from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Beauty is a nectar which
intoxicates the soul.
~T.C. Henley

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In north central Texas where I live, more often than not, we have a winter warm up for a week or so in January. It’s just enough for a few things to believe that spring has arrived and subsequently bloom weeks earlier than normal. As a result of this year’s January warm up, my first magnolia stellata, sometimes called the star magnolia, opened this morning believing that springtime had indeed arrived. Her white, tinged with pink, beauty intoxicated, as it always does, not only my soul but also my eyes. Thus  I found myself uttering the usual litany of words about her stellar loveliness, words like exquisite, gorgeous, magnificent, elegant and so on. However, I given that I’m certain the magnolia has been egregiously duped by January’s treacherous travesty,  I also offered up a prayer that none of her succeeding blooms should perish before the return to winter that February will bring.

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Ecclesiastes 3:4 tell us there’s “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…,” and what amazes me is that even the creatures and beauties of the field seem to know this. The more I observe the goings on in my garden and other aspects of Creation, the more awestruck I become with its plans, its workings, and its Maker. God’s promises are rock solid and too is His faithfulness in keeping them. For no matter what may strike at the foundations of Creation, nothing stops it cycles and continuation. Another thing that simply blows my mind is that God specifically chose all of you and I to partner with Him in Creation’s amazing and ongoing drama. Perhaps that’s something we should contemplate and let sink down deep in our spirits every day and then thereafter take great delight in the peace that comes with such an awareness.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… ~Ecclesiastes 3:1  ✝

1285. Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Bittersweet October.
The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking,
perfect pause between the opposing
miseries of summer and winter.
~Carol Bishop Hipps

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Do you see any leaves turning autumn colors in the photo above? Do you get any sense at all that it’s cool and crisp outside the window, the window that’s right here where I sit to work at my computer, the window from which I shot that not-so-great photo through the venetian blinds? Sadly neither do I! It’s almost November and that “opposing misery of summer” of which Hipps speaks has NOT gone! I’m certain because when I went out in the yard just a few minutes ago to take some photos, I came in just as dripping wet as I had all summer. It might be about ten degrees cooler our there than it was in August, but with the high humidity we are STILL having, it continues to feel like I’m walking into a sauna when I open the door to go out! So where or where is Autumn??? Did it get lost somewhere along its way to Texas??? Perhaps so because according to the National Weather Service the ending of the year and throughout the winter for much of the US will be warmer and drier as the result of another “La Niña” that has set up in the Pacific. (See the photo below where it shows the predicted varying degrees of heat and lack of rainfall as the year ends in the US.) And that makes for an oh so unlucky me because I’m here in north central Texas. Yippee, huh?! That’s why when I read your blogs about cool, crisp days that include photos of lovely autumn leaves, I either begin to salivate like a rabid dog or my eyes start tearing up because Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year and I’m so ready for it to come! Oh, I know, who wants to listen to a whiny old lady rant? So off I go to find a way, despite the “misery,” to self-soothe and seek the presence of things for which to be grateful. Breathe, Natalie, just breathe…

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“But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” ~Jonah 2:9  ✝

**I added the border around the photo I took out my window so you would get the feel of looking out a window.

1248. I am forced to conclude that God made Texas on his day off, for pure entertainment, just to prove that all that diversity could be crammed into one section of earth… ~Author Mary Lasswell

The stars at night – are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The prairie sky – is wide and high
Deep in the heart of Texas.
The sage in bloom – is like perfume
Deep in the heart of Texas…
~Excerpted lyrics from a song
by June Hershey

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Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession.
Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.
Like most passionate nations, Texas has 
its own
history based on, but not limited by, facts.
~John Steinbeck

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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. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans. ~John Steinbeck, 1962

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And, “Texans for the most part have never learned to be dull,” accurately quipped Randolph Campbell.

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As I’ve said repeatedly the intense heat of the Texas summer has always been difficult for me to tolerate. It forces me to stay indoors much more than I like, and being separated from the earth and God’s voice in the natural world starves my spirit. However, I have come to love much of the unique Texas experience, and I am thankful that the Lord created the man or woman who invented air-conditioning. I’m grateful too that our house has lots of windows so I can at least see my yard during times when it’s just too miserably hot to be out in it.. Also after I bought a digital camera, I’m able to save the garden’s glory in photographs that help me make it through the times when the summer heat temporarily robs the landscape of much of its beauty. How blessed are we that the work of His hands is as apparent as ever in His world.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:19 ✝

**Images found on the Internet, Pinterest, and Pixabay; collages by Natalie