one little patch of beauty

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The ministry of kindness is unceasing. It fills all the days and all the nights. In the true home, it begins in pleasant greetings with the first waking moments, and all day goes on in sweet courtesies, in thoughtful attentions, in patience, in quiet self-denials, in obligingness and helpfulness.

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Out in the world kindness goes everywhere with . . .
its good cheer,
its gladness of heart,
its uplift for those who are discouraged,
its strengthening words for those who are weary,
its sympathy with sorrow,
its interest in lives that are burdened and lonely.

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Some of us, if we were to try to sum up the total of our usefulness, would name a few great things we have done:
a gift of money to some benevolent object,
the starting of some good work which has grown into strength,
the writing of a book which has done good to many lives,
the winning of honor in some service to our community or to our country.

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But in every worthy life, that which has left really the greatest measure of good, has been its ministry of kindness. No record of it has ever been kept. People have not talked about it. It never has been mentioned in the newspapers. We do not even remember it ourselves. But wherever we have gone, day after day, if we have simply been kind to everyone, we have left blessings in the world which in the aggregate mean far more than the few large things we set down as the measure of our usefulness among men!

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Our Lord’s wonderful picture of the Judgment reveals another phase of the splendor of kindness. He tells us that the little things we do — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, showing hospitality to the stranger, visiting the sick, and the other nameless ministries of love of which we take no account — if done in the right spirit, are accepted as though they had been actually done to Christ himself! He tells us that the godly will be surprised to know that in their kindly acts they had been ministering to the King, when they supposed they were only doing little things for needy neighbors. This revealing exalts to highest honor, the lowliest things of the common days, wrought in love for the Master.

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The best thing we can do with our love, is not to watch for a chance to perform someone fine act that will shine before the world — but to fill all the days and hours with little kindnesses which will make countless hearts nobler, stronger and happier.

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“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12


I found a new podcast that I listen to as I walk and it never ceases to soften my heart.  The speaker simply reads excerpts from books or essays from various spiritual writers.  His voice is soothing but –be aware–the children will laugh.  I was listening to it when I picked up David from track practice and he dropped his head back on the seat pretending to be put sound asleep by the voice reading to us.

The name of the podcast is Inspirational Living.  Yesterday was a reading from J.R. Miller called Be of Good Cheer:  The Blessings of Cheerfulness.  Miller has been quoted many times on this blog, so I thought it was high time to quote him again.  There is a great website full of Miller’s writing you might want to go peruse it…GRACE GEMS.   Highly recommended.

PERUSE:  read, typically in a thorough or careful way.

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Lily of the valley is coming into bloom.  I found some in the ditch as I walked yesterday and picked one so I could enjoy it’s lovely scent.

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A little peak at the flower garden by the patio and garage.  Hens and Chicks, Phlox, and Iris.

The best part of the day, besides figuring out the Marco Polo app so I could video text with my friend Lea Ann……..

…….was these two fine young men returning home for the summer.

We were all so happy as we ran to the car to see them.  They had quite a morning of trying to load the vehicle with all their stuff.  SO MUCH STUFF.  They learned a valuable lesson or two for next school year.

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As soon as they opened the doors it started falling out.

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Ethan showed me his seat, he had no room for his legs or any movements on the 3 hour drive back home.

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For whatever reason even the hens ran over to investigate.

Seth, Sarah, and David helped them unload.  I had made hamburgers and pasta for dinner, and peanut butter cookies, but had to leave after just a few minutes to take Caleb to his game.

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This is how they brought their clothing home.  Stuffed in a hundred thousand plastic bags found in a trash can at school.

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JUST as I took the photo, Jacob threw his football to Ethan.  We couldn’t have timed it better if we tried…..

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Rich and I sat in our lawn chairs at the top of the hill and watched Caleb play in his game (they lost 9-7) and the rest of the kids (but Grace, who comes home this weekend).  Jacob talked to us nonstop about his recent college stories.  As I studied their faces I was filled with pride and joy.  “What do you think of these fine sons of yours, Rich?”  And we looked at each other and smiled.  If you have children, you know the feeling.  These moments make all the stressful moments worth it, tens times over.

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Caleb was hoping that his big brothers would come to his game.  And they did.

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They were playing catch with the football right in front of me.

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Sarah came to get me so she could take me to a tiny nest that she found.  Could the night get any better?

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David said “I finally feel like I’m not all alone anymore.”

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This photo recently caught my attention again…’s from almost 8 years ago…..I made Sarah’s dress.  And look at those arms and legs and that face.

Just a few more quotes before we go:

fullsizeoutput_54db 1“Our attitude is to be ever toward joy.”

DSC_0633 1“Shall we not seek for the bright side? There is really sunshine enough in the darkest day—to make any ordinary mortal happy—if he only has eyes to see it!”

DSC_0659 1There is no lot in life so dreary—
that it has not
at least its
one little patch of beauty;

or its one wee flower looking up
out of the dreariness,
like a smile of God.”

*J.R. Miller


you are loved.

bird notebook

Good morning Monday, my friends, do you feed the birds?

A thoughtful collection of bird feeders will bring an interesting variety of feathered visitors.  Sometimes I even say, “Thank you for coming!”

From where I am sitting on the couch I can look right through the living room window and easily see my feeders on the porch.  I have one hanging and three make-shift feeders (which are really copper sifters) sitting in different places; on the porch railing, a plant stand, and a little white table.  Because their bottoms are screens I don’t have to worry about the seed staying wet after it rains.  There is black sunflower seed in three of them, and dry mealworms in the fourth (wishing, hoping, dreaming…….of bluebird visitors).

I have a camera nearby with my zoomiest zoom lens attached.

And in this simple way, our days are peppered with bird behavior.  Sometimes the feeders are empty.  But sometimes chicadees fly in, take a seed, and immediately fly out to eat it in the bushes by our driveway.  They don’t stay long.  As soon as one leaves, another one takes its place, it is well-choreographed and there are never any collisions.  Sometimes a pair of cardinals come to visit.  Or a beautiful house sparrow and nuthatches, and a titmouse or two.  I remember that we need more suet to cater to the local woodpeckers.  I haven’t seen any bluejays lately but I saw some at a neighbor’s feeder yesterday.  My parents get a whole flock of mourning doves on their front porch!

Sometimes one of the children will notice a bird and tell me to “come look, Mom!”  I love that.  I tiptoe over as quietly as I can.  Sometimes I’m too late and “oops, it flew away.”


“Think of all the animals you know and you will see that there is not another one that is clothed with feathers.”  Fields and Fencerows, by Porter and Hansen

“He will cover you with His feathers.  He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”  Psalm 91:4


“A wave of song moves across the continent each morning, east to west, with sunrise.  Light–a certain intensity of light–starts birds singing.”  Backyard and Beyond, Edward Duensing and AB Millmoss

“He redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.”  Job 33:24

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.  Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.”  Psalm 96:1-2




The more things should learnest to know and enjoy, the more complete and full will be for thee the delight of living.”  Phalen

“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all……”  Ecclesiastes 11:8


“Use at least one full page in your notebook for each bird sighting.  First, record the day and time.  Next, record the place you saw the bird.  Was it in a field or near the water?  Was it on a grassy lawn or in a woodlot?  You might want to add a brief sentence describing the feature by which you identified the bird–it’s color, shape, or field mark.  Do a small sketch of the bird and make notes about the bird’s behavior.  You can squeeze a lot of information on one page.”   Field Trips, by Jim Arnosky



“These birds were probably not drawn, even thus loosely, together by any social instincts, but by a common want; all were hungry, and the activity of one species attracted and drew after it another and another.  ‘I will look that way, too,’ the kinglet and creeper probably said, when they saw the other birds busy, and heard their merry voices.”   Signs and Seasons by John Burroughs



large family life; kids are always losing things

It’s mesmerizing outside; the air is cool and slightly damp, “it smells like rain” said Seth as he went out the door to wait for the bus.  A most gentle of winds is bending leaves and branches and tree tops.  The sky is light gray and easy on the eyes.

My husband is away this week on a business trip.  I have found that planning a busy evening helps pass the hours until bedtime.  The boys’ football practice was cancelled last night so we picked David up from soccer practice and headed to the mall.  Three handsome sons had haircuts with a friendly six-foot barber who is getting to know them now after several visits.  He asked them about their sports, their older brothers, called them each “my man” and gave them strong handshakes, bending near for a half hug and pats on the back, a big laugh, and smiles when they got down off the chair.    The boys love it.

Then we had pretzels and sang to the radio on the way home in the dark.

It was 7:30 pm when we pulled in the driveway and David needed to finish up his homework.  I was busy getting Seth and Sarah off to bed when I heard loud bangs and booms.  The air crackled with frustration and anger; David couldn’t find his Very Important and Expensive calculator.

(Okay, so.  Typically when the kids come to me and say, “Mom I can’t find my “whatever” small item, I simply don’t care in the least.  I pretend like I care because I don’t want to hurt their feelings.  I say, “Don’t worry, you’ll find it.”  BECAUSE I KNOW for a fact that this THING they can’t find WILL show up.  I think to myself:  don’t even bother looking for it, child, you will come across it very soon.  And sure enough, their lost item is, 99% of the time, found in a timely manner. )

However, this calculater was another, more urgent lost item, part of the remaining 1 %,  and had to be located like, five minutes ago.  Four of us had remembered seeing it with our very own eyes in the new football bin on the porch.  The bin is so big that it can hold the football stuff AND several backpacks, a lawn chair, soccer balls, and old cleats.  The last time we saw it, the calculator was on the bottom of the bin, after falling out of David’s backpack, but now to everyone’s horror it WASN’T THERE.  David stormed around the house, inside and outside, looking for it.  “SOMEONE TOOK IT!” he accused.  He slumped on the couch and said impatiently to his brother, “What are YOU looking at?”  He stomped upstairs and downstairs.  Finally I said, “It HAS TO BE IN THE BIN!!!  If we last saw it in the bin and none of us touched it, IT HAS TO STILL BE IN THE BIN!!!”  Seth (who got out of bed because he “wanted to help”) looked in the bin, David looked in the bin three times, and I also looked in the bin.  Hmmmm, it really was not there.  I suggested other spots where it could be.  No.  Finally, I suggested calling their Dad.  He didn’t answer, but called back about half (a long) hour later.  We were all completely stressed out.  “I don’t like it when David gets mad”,  Seth confided in me.  “My night is…. totally ruined,” I secretly thought dramatically to myself.  “Ugh.  That calculator was so expensive, too, I wonder if we should give him a new one next week for his birthday to replace it.  He would LOVE that.”

HOWEVER……Rich knew what we were talking about right away.  “I saw it on the bottom of that bin and put it in the front pocket of his book bag,” he said an an annoyed fatherly voice because he hates it when things aren’t put away where they are supposed to go.  We hung up.

David stomped up to his room to look in his bag, again.  There was a long silence.  I was in the kitchen, pressing my hands to my mouth and willing myself not to ask.  I finally called upstairs, “Did you find it?”  “NO.  IT’S NOT IN HERE.”  he was still sounding very frustrated.  What the heck?????

Then, I had a thought (through many years of problems, moms become amazingly brilliant at problem solving–if you remember, it was also my idea to call their Dad and ask him).

“Maybe he put it in Caleb’s bag by mistake.”  

We rushed to find Caleb’s bag.  We put it on the counter.  We opened the first front pocket.  No.  We unzipped the second front pocket.  And there it was.  “Stupid” was for some reason the word that came from my mouth as I walked away.  “Did you just call me stupid?” David asked.  Then I laughed, “No, I guess I’m just calling this whole situation stupid.”  The tension left the room.

By that time everyone else was in bed, the house was dark, all but a friendly glowing lamp.  David and I each got our books and read together in quiet until 9:30.  I interrupted the silence only once.

“Can you please keep your calculator in the main part of your backpack, zipped up, so it never falls out again?”  He stared at me for a moment, I held my breath.

“Okay”,  was all he calmly replied,  looking back down to the page in his book.


Last week I was standing on the porch, busily brushing the dog.  The kids were all at school.  Clouds of fur lazily rolled across the porch and down the steps.  I brushed one side and then the next.  We didn’t talk.   A light rain was falling.  Then, all of a sudden, a little flock of juvenile blue birds came flying over the house and landed in the yard.  My arm froze in mid-brushing.  “I know I’m supposed to be brushing your fur, but would you mind if I got my camera?” I asked politely.  He wagged his tail which I assumed meant, “Do whatever you want I’m gonna love you anyway and never ever get offended by anything you decide.”  So I turn into the house and got my camera.  As an apology, I let him take some of the photos.  I thought they turned out pretty good.

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Oh, one more quick story about kids losing things.  Caleb has his own kindle and every once in a while when I think he’s been on it too much I take it in my room and hide it.  Well, the two of us could not find it for days.  And I’m thinking to myself, “I’m finally losing it.  I can’t remember where I hid the thing.  I can’t even remember hiding it.”  Caleb was wandering around the house singing, “my kindle, my kindle” and it was putting me on edge.  He even slyly searched David’s room.  No luck.  Finally we asked Sarah, who was upstairs playing in her room, if she knew where it was.  “Seth has it.  He took it to school.  It’s in his backpack”  Caleb and I stared at each other and then yelled downstairs to Seth.  “Bring us your backpack, Seth.  Where is Caleb’s kindle?”  Seth looked so guilty, I rarely see a guilty expression on Seth’s face and it was ugly.  Sure enough, the kindle was in Seth’s backpack and Seth had to go into my room for a talk.  The point to this story is if you really can’t find something ask the youngest person in the family because 9 times out of 10 they know.  They have amazing observation and memory skills.  The other point is, when you feel like you’re finally losing your mind, 9 times out 10 –you’re not.  It’s just that you have lots of kids and there is no limit to what can happen in a particular day.

PS, Mom?  If you’re reading this?  I can’t find my deodorant.


birds and blooms

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American Goldfinch; in the trees at the dam by the stream


Eastern Phoebe; wire fence by stream

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Black and White Warbler; high in treetops

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Ovenbird; in the woods (next pic shows the stripes on the top):

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Tufted Titmouse; tree by my house


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; bushes by the driveway (first sighting) It’s a small and very pretty bird.

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Sparrow; very common, however I loved him because he threw and stiffened his whole body into his singing.

It takes a powerful amount of energy to be a song bird.


This bird was in the woods this morning, I identified it as a Veery using the Merlin ID app on my phone.


Chipmunk frozen in fear in the woods because he saw me.


Warbling Vireo; bushes on the edge of the field

(not positive about the identification)

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Catbird; I love the way they sing


This unidentified hawk (?) made several passes over us all (myself and the little birds) which put a damper on things because he (I’m sure) likes eating little birds.  But maybe he was looking for mice?

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Common Yellowthroat; isn’t it’s black mask and yellow bib pretty?

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I think this is a Female Eastern Towhee but it was difficult to get a photo.  It was on the ground the whole time, scratching into the leaves finding food.  As soon as I found it in the camera frame it would hop out of it again.  The bird book shows a female looking like this with a white breast (which this one may have but I couldn’t see it).  A male Towhee was singing up in the branches which also led me to believe it was it’s mate.


Male Eastern Towhee

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Mallard Duck; I sat on a boulder with him in the distance but close enough that I could still hear him quacking now and then.  Very companionable.


Cardinal; isn’t it pretty with all the gray background and spots of red buds?

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Apple blossoms

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and Marsh Marigolds

The gypsy moth egg casings are hatching out which means that there are tiny caterpillars EVERYWHERE, it’s rather like a plague.  It’s a nature phenomena that I have never seen before in the 10 years we’ve lived here.  WAY too many.  So I’m hoping that all the birds (and chipmunk) photographed in this blog post like to eat them.

I brought home a branch of apple blossoms and put them in a blue vase by the sink.  I picked some white and purple violets, too.