Beauty in the Barren Places

IMG_4739 Sunrise

Sunrise Over The Badlands

Sometimes beauty shows up in the most unexpected places. Barren, desert like landscapes are strangely beautiful when you really start to look closely at them. When the sun rises over them; they are cast in an amazing glow that makes the land take on an entirely different life.

The world takes on a feel of expectation….a waiting to see what the day will bring….a hush that borders on the feel of standing in a holy place.

As I walked through the crunchy half dead grass of the Badlands of South Dakota; I began to notice that this barren looking land was filled with life……blooms and plants that are fragrant and colorful.

Trees cling tenaciously to life in this land and golden yellow flowers bloom with abandon along the Sage Creek roadway. Perhaps it is the contrast of the lifeless looking grass that elevates the blooms of flowers to something so much more than mere patches of color.

The days can be amazingly hot, with a wind that never seems to quit. As we camped on the rim of the badlands, our pop up camper was buffeted by winds that seemed to want to tip us over the edge. The second night my husband actually chained our camper to our pickup for a little extra safety measure!

20170909_174618 Camping on the Edge

Even with the downside of sudden storms and hot dry winds, this land has much to teach us. It teaches us, at least it teaches me, that beauty can be found in the barren spaces. I have learned that if you look closely you will find an abundance of beauty.

That beauty may not be flashy or showy, but it is abundant. The sage gives off a wonderful aroma if you happen to step on it and the sunrises and sunsets are some of the most beautiful I have seen.

IMG_4237 the Badlands

I am hoping that if you are stuck, waiting in a barren place, that there is one small patch of beauty  to be found. A place for you to rest your heart and feed your soul. May you take delight in a sunrise or sunset….and may it cast a wonderful glow over the barren spaces.

IMG_4732 Day's End

Sunset Over The Badlands

 

 

“The desert,
when the sun comes up…
I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the Earth began.” 

― Tom Hanks

 

I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought.
Hosea 13:5

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Not Finished Yet

IMG_4367 Mt. Rushmore Avenue of Flags.JPG

We were gone last week. We decided to venture out to the Black Hills in South Dakota. (Which is why I have not been reading any blogs or commenting!  I will be attempting to catch up soon.)

One of the places that we continue to visit, when we get out that way, is Mt. Rushmore. It never changes but it is just something that seems to beckon us to stop and wander around. This time we were able to visit with the last known remaining carver of the mountain, Nick Clifford. He is 96 years old this year and still sharp as a tack.

IMG_4372 Nick Clifford ~ Last Remaining Worker.JPG

After speaking with him and reading the plaques along the trails, that wind around the base of the heads; we rediscovered the fact that the sculpture was actually never finished. They quit carving on it when the US entered World War II. Originally the presidents were supposed to have their coats as part of the sculpture.

It was a beautiful day to be outdoors enjoying the view. The flags were fluttering in the breeze, the crowds were thinner due to school starting, and we were able to stroll the trails in the sun and take our time reading plaques that helped to educate us.

It did really strike me that this project was never finished. My first thought was they should have finished it or should be finishing it now. My second thought was that this memorial is a pretty accurate representation of our country and of us as people….we are not yet finished.

We are constantly changing….sometimes for the better….sometimes not. We have gone through wars, riots, racial challenges, scandals, parades, cheering on our veterans, raising children, everyday life, etc.  Some good…..some not.

On this day, the 11th of September, it is good to remember that we are not yet finished.  This is a day that, as a country, and as a world we won’t forget. For my generation….it is our Pearl Harbor.

We have learned things since that day. There are still things that we, as a country, need to change. There are challenges still to be faced. We are growing and will continue to grow for years to come. Some things will change and others will not.

People will still be people with strong feelings and opinions about things. There will be wars, because we, as a world are made up of imperfect people. We will struggle with events and we will celebrate other events.

We will continue growing, with those four stone faces looking on. I sometimes wonder what they would make of this country and it’s people. I wonder if it would be what they had in mind when they were in charge.

I anticipate that my husband and I will make a trek to those heads a few more times before we are done….at least I hope to in the years to come. I also anticipate that we will grow as we are chiseled, hewn and shaped into what we were meant to be.

 

IMG_4356 Chiseled and Hewn

May we be gracious while we are being shaped and carved into what we are meant to be. May we persevere and in the end stand firm as a mountain. May we realize that we are not yet finished……..

“When things do not go your way,
remember that every challenge
— every adversity
— contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” 

― Roy T. Bennett

 

Learning New Things

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The old saying “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks” is not necessarily true. I am fast discovering that fact. Approximately one week ago I joined (as my kids would say) the current century…..I am now the owner/user of a cell phone.

My husband and I have never had a cell phone. We relied totally on our land line and our laptop computer for people contacting us. Our children would often nag question us as to when we were going to get a cell phone so they could get hold of us when they wanted and to know where we were.

The response my husband always gave went something like this, “Well….you don’t have to know everything.” He was quite content with his landline. It did not bother him at all to be on the road and have family wonder exactly where we were. Our daughter-in-law likened us to a UPS package. We would check in when we stopped somewhere that had WiFi …….and it kind of was like tracking a package!

I knew I would be going to my kids, four hours away this past week to take care of my grand-kids, as the babysitter was not available and school had not yet started. This was going to be my first solo trip to our kids and I was pretty adamant that I would have a cell phone with me, should I run into any trouble along the way.

I also wanted the comfort of that “google map lady” telling me where to go when I got into the city. I did discover that if you don’t know how to make the “google map lady” work properly she is not much help! (It also does not help to talk back to her as she just keeps on telling you the same thing…..speaking loudly to her doesn’t help either.)

The phone was pretty handy to check in with people and I think I have the texting down pat…..sort of.  It was kind of funny how impressed people were with the fact that I had totally skipped the flip phone phase and headed right for the smartphone.

My husband informed me that I was not a “very serious cell phone person”. He was commenting on the phone case that I had purchased from Amazon. I told him I may as well have some fun with it!

My granddaughter, who is 3, amazed me this week. She was looking at the pictures on my phone and then informed me that she had taken some pictures with it….and indeed she had! I decided then and there, if I had any questions about what my phone can do…I would definitely ask a child.  They just seem to ooze technology and it’s mysteries.

I discovered this past week that one is never too old to learn something new….if you want to. I made my solitary trip to the kids and I am learning how to operate a smart phone. It is kind of fun to do the new things! If I can figure these things out, I am confident that anyone can!

I am so grateful for my kids who are always so willing to answer any question…no matter how stupid it might sound. (They will laugh to my face…at least my sons will, but they will answer the question. It is usually safer to ask my daughter-in-laws as they don’t laugh…at least not to my face.)

In the past I have not wanted to try something new for fear of failure. I still hate to fail because I hate to look stupid. I don’t know why I worry about looking stupid…… I sometimes feel I have perfected that as an art form!

Sometimes you just have to get past that fear and go for it. I have found, that in this case, the learning of something new is kind of fun. When you get past that fear of ailure and looking dumb, life gets to be a grand adventure.

May your weekend be filled with adventure the learning of new things. What is the “something new” that you are learning?

 

 

We’re scared to death to try new things
because we think we have to get it right the first time.
Joel Salatin

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You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner,
the whole world opens up to you.
Barbara Sher

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Pictures of the Day

Old Glory

I had planned to get a post out much sooner that this! Sometimes, life just gets really busy….in a very good way. Family and special days like the 4th of July come along and blogging gets put on the back burner. Throw a wedding in the mix and the weekend gets very busy!

I thought I would share some of the photos that make up our annual 4th of July celebration. I come from a family that is very solid in their American values….God, Family and Country. Freedom is a concept that is firmly embraced and celebrated with everything from bubbles to fireworks.

Time to Blow a Few Bubbles for the Dog to Chase

My granddaughter found a great way to pass the time while the adults visited and caught up with each others’ lives. There is always lots of laughter, good-natured teasing and hugs when this bunch of people get together. This is a holiday that is a bridge that draws our groups of family and friends together….it is a meeting place that we can count on at least once a year.

Building Sand Castles on the Beach

We also found that spending time on the small beach was so much fun. The water was so cold, the day was hot; so it was a great mix.  Whenever you mingle sand, sunny days, water and kids you have a sure winner for a great morning.

Walking Past Arnold’s Park With Grandpa

Time To Imitate The Statues

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day is filled with eating, boat rides, swimming, eating some more, sharing recipes, laughing, eating again, walking to the Emporium for snacks, and of course the fireworks display at the end of the day. They have one of the best firework shows in our area and it has become a family ritual.

My grandkids thought the bottom photo looked like a firework rainbow. They were in awe of the loud booms that sounded like cannons echoing across the lake. The shore line was alive with people sending up bottle rockets and patriotic music was piped through local radio stations. The songs were synchronized with the fireworks.

We did have to sit through a drizzle type rain but it was well worth it and most people stayed for the entire show. I think it was because we knew when the Grand Finale was over…..so was our holiday with family and friends.

Arnold’s Park at Night

The day ended as it had begun…..hugs, smiles, and seeing our flag waving  in the breeze. It was an amazing day (as always) and was even better because of who we spent it with. I hope you enjoyed a day that was fulfilling and fun all rolled into one!

 

 

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle,
but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees,
the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.
You may think you have overeaten,
but it is patriotism.
~Erma Bombeck

 

 

Wonderful Weekends and Road Trips

IMG_3387 Silhouette.JPG

Some days just start off with odd things happening. This morning I made some delicious fruit smoothies for my husband and me to have for breakfast. It was early morning and beautiful weather out, so we sat on the porch to enjoy them.

As we sat there, enjoying the quiet of the morning, I saw something drop just as a bird flew past. When I looked in my cup there was a whitish streak inside my cup! That bird had made a deposit in my smoothie! It did make me wonder what the rest of the day would turn out to be. Fortunately, it did not turn out like it started.

The day did turn out hot and muggy; and I commented to my husband that I was grateful that last weekend had been cooler. Last weekend we had the joy of taking a road trip to see our grandson graduate from pre-school.

IMG_3470 A Taste of Frosting

“If Only I Could Stick My Finger in This Frosting!”

We decided to take the scenic route on our way south for our visit. I figured I would just share. with you, a few of the sights that we saw on our way.

We found a hard surface road that twined through the country side and had some beautiful scenery…..we did choose it because the map had all the little dots telling us that it was a scenic route. The map did not lie…..it was beautiful.

This little town was a perfect spot to get out and stretch our legs. It was also a wonderful place to just drink in the view and listen to the water that rushed over the rocks. It will be fun to trace this road trip on the map later on and remember all these little back roads.

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We arrived at our destination….the graduation….with time to spare. It was so much fun to spend time with the kids and grandkids. We had such a good time going to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.

The Grandkids!

A Bridge in Des Moines

When I think back to last weekend the thing that really stands out is the joy on the faces of our grandkids. They were so excited because they got to have both sets of grandparents at their house at the same time!

Wandering through the farmers market with them, finding the balloon man and eating some popcorn…..okay…….a lot of popcorn….made for some great memories.  I hope they remember that time with as much joy as their grandparents do.

The road trips was great, the scenery was wonderful….but the kids and grandkids…..now there is a treasure without compare!

The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing
 Unknown quotes 

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A Day For Remembering

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In small towns all across America, people gathered today to remember those who served in the military and those who gave their lives serving in the military. Bands played, 21 gun salutes were given, speeches made and flags were flying.

As a kid I remember going to the cemetery and seeing the veterans in their uniforms. They made a huge impression as they stood rock still, at attention, guns smartly resting on their shoulders. There was precision in every move they made.

I remember the sound of the breeze through the trees, the slap of palms on the stocks of guns and the sharp report of the guns firing through the quiet of the cemetery. The smell of sulfur from spent shells is a vivid memory.

It was only in later years that I understood what all those little flags meant. It was only in later years that the heartbreak of lives ended too soon, in war, really hit me.

In my trip to Washington DC, last year, I had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery, as well as many memorials. There is a reverent hush in those places and it is fitting.

It is a hush that invites time for reflection on the lives lost, the sacrifices made and the hardships endured.  It is a hush fit for sacred ground.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier- Arlington National Cemetery

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The Three Soldiers-Near Vietnam Wall

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Korean War Memorial

This is a day set aside to honor and remember. Let us not forget to honor those who have made the sacrifices necessary to protect us and others. Let us not forget to thank those who have served, the families of those who have served and also thank those who continue to serve in our nation’s military.

Today I say thank you to my three nephews who are serving at this time……… Sam (82nd Airborne), Kevin (Army), and Justin (Navy).

It is good for me to remember that there is a price to be paid for freedom. It is paid in sacrifice, tears, victories, defeats, despair, pain, sweat and blood. Those paying the price are our brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, dads, moms, children and friends.

It is good to have a day to remember these truths. To remind ourselves that freedom is our heritage . It is something to be protected, defended and not taken for granted. I am grateful to those who make the sacrifice to serve.

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May we never forget

 

AMERICANS CAME TO LIBERATE, NOT TO CONQUER,
TO RESTORE FREEDOM AND TO END TYRANNY
Coleville cemetery-Carentan, France

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13
New Living Translation

Wanderings

IMG_4255 The Black Hills, SD

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”
Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Today was one of those odd days where it seems like you are busy, but when you look back at the day you realize you haven’t really got much to show for it. I did get the dishes done. We did get to town and get some groceries. It just felt like we worked so much harder than that!

It has been rainy, gray and drippy here the last few days. Maybe that is why everything seems like it is harder and takes longer to do. It might just be a whole mental attitude thing.

I was at a loss as to what to post today so I went on over to the dailypost to check out the  prompts. It is always a helpful place to give you some ideas to get your brain working. The words for the last couple days were gray and roots. This did make me laugh out loud as my first thought was of my own hair!  Only…..mine is gray on a lot more of my head than just the roots.

After thinking on those words awhile I knew that in my digital files of photos I had some pretty cool pictures of tree roots. I am going to share a few of my favorites with you. They were taken on various vacations through the past years.

The tree pictured at the beginning of this post was photographed on a family vacation years ago to the Black Hills in South Dakota. (My husband’s favorite place!) The roots on that tree were so amazing to me. They just seemed to snake around the rocks and hang on. Eventually the tree died but those roots spoke of such determination to anchor themselves firmly into something solid.

It kind of reminded me of a song we used to sing in Sunday School about the wise man building his house upon the rock….when the rains and winds came…his house stood firm. I suspect that tree stood pretty firm through many storms.

IMG_6912 Lake Thompson, SD

This picture was taken at Lake Thompson, South Dakota. I just could not pass up taking a picture of this huge ball of roots. It made me wonder what it actually took to bring that tree down! Even in it’s present state there is such a rugged beauty to it.  The roots have been worn smooth by the rain and bleached by the sun. It may no longer function as a living tree but I have a feeling that it is probably used by many people as a place to sit and rest. It has been repurposed and made beautiful again by time.

This grouping of three pictures, are probably some of my all time favorites. They were taken at Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota. Just seeing these pictures gives me a wanderlust to go back and wade in the cool waters of the falls, marvel at the twisted trees that are still alive and feel the texture of the lichen covered rocks that line the stream.

It is the perfect place…..running water, sparkling waterfalls, gnarly trees, multi-colored rocks and pebbles, and there is always a refreshing breeze on a hot summer day. It is a joy to watch the little kids (and the old kids) splashing in the water and just enjoying being outdoors.

I am starting to think that if tomorrow is also a rainy day it might be time to get out the well-worn Rand McNally atlas and do some vacation dreaming! I have found that sometimes the dreaming is over half the fun.

Perhaps just planning a vacation and dreaming on one can be like taking a vacation and never leaving home. Perhaps the slow pace of our “gray, drippy” day was a mini-vacation of sorts. I may need to rethink vacations in general.

Vacation memories can be like those tree roots that are sunk deep into rock……those memories are firmly and solidly rooted in shared experiences with family and friends….shared joys, laughter and fun……..and that is a blessed, wonderous thing.

The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.
Cesare Pavese

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