Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Small Wonders at the Springs

There is an endless array of small wonders at the springs,if one looks closely.

Different types of lizards, toads, turtles & fish abound. Mullets, well over a foot long, swim up into the springs. There also bluegill & bass, to name a few. When the water is clear of people, the fish are even more numerous. The water in this image is 4+ feet deep.(Does that give you an idea of how clear it is?) I shot it using a "behind glass" setting.

London caught one of the biggest grasshoppers I have ever seen. He carried it to a spring & threw it to the fish. We watched as it raced away from a school of fish & climbed atop the water grasses. It then made it to the safety of a nearby tree. We all high-fived for the survival of the fastest!

Watching at Ginnie

We set up camp on the forest side as this provides the best chance to spy wildlife. Early one morning, I saw an armadillo cruise the inner edges of our site,resembling an armored opossum. This is quite a treat as they are reclusive & shy. A worker told me they carry a "high incidence of leprosy". Each afternoon, we would watch a black-shouldered kite. Red & black-headed turkey vultures abound, as well as crows & songbirds. The sounds of pileated woodpeckers, hawks, & wrens reminded us of home.

One morning, I went hunting & spied a couple of wild turkey hens. They had young ones hidden in grass under a tangle of twigs. At a distance, I saw a brown movement~ it was a doe. We watched each other for a time. When she finally spooked, I saw that she, too had a young one. Once, at twilight a "silver fox" (we call them "grey"), skirt our site some 30-40 feet away from our quiet, little group.

Night in Ginnie Springs is amazing!!! The stars are vivid, clear and numberless. Each night, we listened to owls calling back & forth. From our camp, the cicada chorus dominated the singing frogs. Nearer the water, it was the other way around. Our last night, we were able to hear the call of coyotes in the night.

Folks drifting on the river told us of seeing a small gator on the far bank. Others saw a river otter. A manatee came up into the Devil's Spring area while we were at another spring. These are on my "must-see-list" for our next journey there !!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Spiritual Springs

I took a much needed spiritual retreat with my family and went camping in north, central Florida. In 102 degrees with high humidity, we set up camp in the forest. Pouring with sweat,I climbed into the tent to don my swimsuit, and found myself wondering why I had returned. Slipping into the 72 degree fresh, water I instantly recalled the lure of the centuries old springs.

This is the first view that I had that evening. It is also the last view I had each night before turning in. It is Lil' Devil's Spring, 45' deep, and too narrow for a diver's tank. The water is crystal clear. All manner of fish large and small,come to nibble my toes and see if I have brought them treats. Looking up the channel, towards the Santa Fe River, there are 2 more springs.

Above, is The Devil's Eye, some 25' down to the cave entrance. Surrounded by cyprus trees, that drip with Spanish moss, these springs bubble up and run off into the river. Descending the steps, one cannot discern where the crystal clear water will begin. Just off of those steps, the water is well over an adult's head,though it appears only inches deep.

We made camp on the forest side, between Devil's and Ginnie Springs.Pictures do not do the springs any sort of justice, nor does standing beside them. This is my husband, who is over 6'tall. He is about to swim over the cavern entrance to Ginnie. An adult cannot stand up where he is. The water is so clear, it is hard to imagine the depth. I believe the entrance to Ginnie is about 45'deep. I do not dive, and snorkelling is very uncomfortable for me, but I was constantly in and out of the cool, spring waters. My time was spent drawing, meeting people, as well as in praise & worship. It was refreshing for my spirit to get away and enjoy more of the amazing gifts that our heavenly Father has provided. I accomplished some GREAT watching, too. I will share on that later.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ginnie Springs, Fla

Santa Fe River

Ginnie Springs cavern entrance

Devil's Eye cave entrance

Lil' Devil's Spring

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Coming Out Of The Haze

All this drama has left me a bit out of focus. Yesterday, was a foggy-headed day. for me. Our red-shouldered hawk, of 8+ years still hunts here daily. She is known by a missing wing feather.Apparently. the "new one" DID choose to live in the forest behind us. It is she who is teaching her young to fly out back. I watched her regular schedule before the leaves came in and hoped she would nest here. A variety of factors kept me from going down "below" in early mornings, so I hadn't been sure. Though the leaves are denser than I can recall, from our back deck we can see her come and go. I am so pleased.
The baby wrens are at "that rebellious age", which seems to extend across species. The young ones are fascinated by us. Although Momma is at ease around us, she must teach them to fear humans. She is constantly chasing after them, scolding & they are nearly her size.

I took this image some weeks ago. It is a reflection on aquarium glass. I thought it a unique perspective. Life has been feeling like this a lot for me lately. Thanks to your prayer support, it is getting back to normal. (the "One Minute Devotion" to the right entitled, "Thanks", goes perfectly with our experience these last days. Please check it out.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Still Watch & Listen

It is Momma time of year! I get to be a stay at home mom for a season. In the recent weeks that I have been quiet, I have continued to watch. Momma wren is still teaching her young to fly. It is so unusual to see a flock of wrens. I lounged in the pool the other day, watching as they flew over my head from the forest, passed the house, around the gardens...back & forth. They were clearly kids at play. It was delightful. The cardinal babies have grown to that awkward, adolescent stage, their crests too big for their bodies. We have more bluebirds, blue jays and robins...so glad to see after the illness, a few years back that took out so many songbirds. Our red-shouldered hawk is training her young to fly. Lots of screeching and teaching. I have been blessed to see momma soar right over my head, at tree-top level, while I was on our raised deck. I witnessed a great blue, heron lumber overhead barely clearing the trees.

Our chipmunk population has grown this year. My computer is next to sliding doors, overlooking the forest & lake. Periodically, a young chipmunk scampers but inches from my foot, on the other side of the glass. The spring baby squirrels are awkwardly learning to jump from tree to tree. The waterfall out back has swelled incredibly since this image was taken in the spring. I love to sit on the deck, listening to the rushing sounds it makes. One night I was doing so & heard an unusual sound. When it stopped, I rushed in to look it up. It was the sound of a "happy raccoon".

The area has been in drought for a number of years, but we have returned to a wonderful cycle of afternoon or nightly thunderstorms. We are perched on a slope amidst the forest. It is truly amazing to watch as the trees whip & sway in the wind. I watch approaching storms through the sliding doors. When one arrives, I dash out front to the carport. The other night, the stars began to reappear & it seemed the storm had passed. I counted the lightening at 3 miles away. Just then, a crackling lightening strike shattered the night. On the far corner of our yard, it struck a sumac. I lingered a long while, watching the upper branches glow and flare.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Prayers Of Thanks

"The fervent prayers of the righteous availeth much." (James 5:16b)
From Maine to Japan, South Africa to Russia, Florida to Taiwan and all points in between: I thank you! Please offer prayers of praise and thanks to our God and Savior.
This looked to be a long and drawn out drama. The immediate concern has been resolved peacefully. I will need continued prayers for my coming year & my health, as well as continued prayers for the others involved. As I said, my urgent request now, is for prayers of praise and gratitude! This is truly a powerful example of the words of James !

Suffering With Christ

When things are going well, it is easy to say, "I count it all joy....to suffer....with my Savior..."... much easier, than actually going through the motions. Last night I asked for your prayers. This morning, the daily Proverb that came up on the right (11:3) begins, "The integrity of the upright guides them..." I found that meaningful, poignant, and affirming. When we are in the midst of trials and suffering, it is difficult to see what God has planned. At times like this, my husband will say, "I know that I will come out better on the other side, but all I can see is the grinder I am about to go through".

A few years back, my young grand-daughter underwent treatments for a very invasive cancer. To put it lightly, it was terrifying. Thankfully, she remains free of the insidious disease. Now, we have a glimpse of the other side of this. The experience called her mom to go into nursing. It is her desire to nurse children with cancer, and their families. It is impossible to say how many countless lives Shannon will touch.

We cannot yet know what beauty and power is on the other side of our suffering. This is where the faith comes in. Isaiah 43:2, tells us, "When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned."

At these times, we must cling to God's promises. The more we rely on, and have faith in God, the more we see His promises fulfilled. Faith does becomes second-nature for us.

"For I know the thoughts I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil; to give you a purpose and a hope." (Jer. 29:11).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Calling All Prayer Warriors

I had gotten away from blogging due to health issues. I was looking forward to a peaceful summer and rededicated myself to this end. I enjoy blogging so and it brings me a lot of fulfillment. (Your responses uplift me in many, ways and on many levels).

I have been going through some very difficult trials. It is both exciting and frightening. God may have plans to move my life, or He may be using what I am going through to meet the private prayer request of someone else. God may have something entirely different in mind. (He is so creative!) This is a time when I need an abundance of prayers through Christ, Jesus. As well as prayers on my behalf, please hold up all of those concerned. I ask for prayers for clarity and discernment, as given to all when we receive the Holy Spirit. I ask for patience, understanding, gentleness, wisdom and guidance.
I know that God is moving in powerful ways. Today, while gardening, God put on my heart to contact some particular people for "prayer cover". I thought it odd, as we do not keep in regular contact. At that moment, my husband received a call from one of those people. They had not spoken in 12 years. Some may call this, "coincidence". I am convinced that an instance such as this is the power of Almighty God moving and acting.
Soon, I may be put into situations that call for strong conviction, as well as righteous words and actions. I pray that in that day, I am able to stand as a witness to my Saviour and King.

I do know that in the end, something beautiful will come from all of this....but the waiting is difficult. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Turtles

A few months ago, our neighbor found a tiny turtle & gave it to my son, London. "Cody" has since become a beloved member of our menagerie. London even takes him outside to play in a fashioned "hotel" & pool.

Later, I found the friendliest box turtle I have ever come across. "Crush" was given his name as his markings reminded London of orange soda. He stayed in one of our hotel tanks for a few days, feasting on a variety of fruits & insects. One afternoon, we returned him to his forest home. I watched him until he tucked himself away, next to & under some wood.

That evening, neighbors stopped by & the kids played with Cody. The adult topic was self-control. Deb shared that her family uses Eph. 5:18a ("Do not become drunk with wine...") to extend to other traits that Paul advised against, such as boasting, gossip, jealousy, love of money & anger. The notion of being "drunk with anger", etc. fascinated us. Arguing children interrupted us. Oh well, time to head in for the night, anyway.....
Preparing for bed, I shared with London our adult conversation, specifically how anger can take control of us. He really seemed to be putting things together when he abruptly cried out in horror. Cody had been left outside, forgotten in a moment of anger! Flashlights were of no avail in our search. London was terrified for Cody. What a perfect example of the topic, but this was NOT the time to point that out. We prayed for Cody's safety & for London's (self-)forgiveness. We prayed that Cody would find a safe, new home, near water....or, that if it was God's will, we would find him.

The next morning, I went out back just in time to see Crush venturing forth. I said a prayer for his safety & headed out front. Tucked away, next to some mulch, my eyes fell on tee-tiny Cody! It was a miracle in itself that my eyes fell that direction.

Rarely are lessons demonstrated in such a timely & dramatic way. London & I immediately said a prayer of thanks & praise. We discussed anger, self-control & how AWESOME God is.
When Jesus was tempted, (Matt 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), He used scripture to fight off satan. Paul instructed us to, "Put on the whole armor of God..." (Eph 6:13), which includes, "...the sword of the Spirit, which is the very Word of God" (vs. 17b). Anger & lack of self-control caused Cody to be left out. The Bible is clear that those are both tools of the adversary. Paul instructs us to arm ourselves by reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God, so that will be prepared against the wiles of evil.

A few days later, another fellow joined us...a young, but strangely gentle baby snapper.

(This happened a couple of weeks ago. The other day, we spied Crush meandering around one of our garden oaks).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Life & Growth

For 9 or 10 years, we have had a tee-tiny Carolina wren nest in our carport. She nests right above where we sit and hang out...especially during storms. 3 years back, Tom got on a left-brain rampage and labelled everything on the shelves. He had a left-over jug, which he cut in half, & labelled, "handy container". Momma wren agreed and this is the 3rd year she has nested there.

She will come and go regularly, barely noticing us sitting beneath her. She is the tiniest of birds and has the loudest and most melodic of all our song-birds. Truly an amazing metaphor God created.

This year, she had a record-setting 5 babies !!!

The kids have grown & grown and now overflow the little bin....Saturday, it was time for big bro to stick his head out and lead the flock.....

We were so blessed to be out there as they took their first flying lessons. Poor things...trying so hard, but slamming and falling and trying again. I was afraid for them, but could hear momma singing a strong song of encouragement.... They all made it out of the carport to the "Carolina Blue" sky...and safely returned. SUCH a tremendous blessing to witness day 1 of flight training !!!!

Another metaphor in this is to be seen in our lives....Sometimes we start to feel crowded and that it's time for a change... We look out and see a huge drop...it takes faith and a lot of practice. We can spread our wings and head out into new directions, as long as we have our Father-God's blessing and encouragement. THAT takes faith and relationship.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Late Night Bandit

I was up late one night recently,when I heard thumping on the back deck. It sounded like someone was bumping the furniture about. The dog and cat stared intently through the sliding glass door, beside me. I turned off the small light in the room and peered into the darkness....nothing. I returned to my work, with the lights off and heard the sounds again. Using a red flashlight, I still could not discern anything.

I moved over to the kitchen and listened. The sound was just below that window. I climbed atop the counter and peered out... This young raccoon was on a table, just below where I sat. He seemed as interested in me as I was in him...We stared at each other, for the longest time, only a few feet away....one of those moments that seem to last an eternity. It was joyous and magical! I could no longer control myself and I snapped a few images. The flash drove him away and he disappeared into the night.

I did not have to wait long before he returned. This time, he focused on his task and I watched to see his motive. He was back atop the table and working feverishly with his little hands, reaching down to pry open a bucket. (I wondered what was in there....had someone at the cook-out used it as a trash bin?) When he finally managed to pry open one edge, he climbed down. He tipped over the bucket and removed the lid.That little guy had found my missing, 20 pound bag of wild, birdseed !! He grabbed it by the handle and started down the steps with it. A few harsh raps on the window and he was gone into the night.

"Watching" and "listening" truly can bring untold moments of magic!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Testing of Faith

There have been times in my life where I have felt like a target, attacked from every angle. Things that were going great one day feel utterly in ruins the next. Ways of life I have enjoyed seem to suddenly dissolve. People I have always counted on, temporarily fade away into their own concerns.I find myself inwardly asking, "Why am I being targeted?"

Immediately, the answer settles over my entire spirit: it is because I have asked Jesus to be Lord of my life, to guide my steps and direct my paths. I have asked for His help and that makes me a target.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, "...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now, hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us...God demonstrates His own love toward us, that while we were yet sinners [imperfect], Christ died for us." (Romans 5:3b-5&8)

James wrote, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (endurance). Let patience have it's perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"..Much will Be Required..." *

In the time of Jesus, Roman law was final. When a Roman centurion was walking and came upon a non-Roman citizen, he could force a non-Roman to drop what he was doing and carry his load for one mile. What a tremendous burden and inconvenience !!! After having accomplished my work, I have been instructed to carry out the tasks assigned to others. It is frustrating, to say the least, infuriating at most. Not given to anger, I first sought the words of scripture for counsel.

In Matthew 5:41 Jesus said, "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two". Is the Bible an outdated manuscript without relevance in the modern world? I would say this example puts an end to that argument.

* see Luke 12:48