Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Handmade Ornaments

While most of my gift projects will have to stay under wraps for a few more days, I also made a few pre-Christmas gifts that I am finally free to post about.

Four years ago I decided to start a tradition of making ornaments every Christmas for my friend B's children. Last year I also began making ornament for B's two youngest siblings and my godson Corin as well. That brings the total to six handmade ornaments, which is why I began working on them in January this year. And starting early gave me high hopes for what I could accomplish—perhaps a little too high.

I chose to make counted cross-stitch ornaments this year with 14-count plastic, back them with felt, and then attach a ribbon for the hanger. I began with this one for my godson Corin:

I had intended to make five more with various scenes from the Christmas Story. However, although this one turned out beautifully, it took me six months to complete. Granted, there were multiple life events happening simultaneously and I was only able to put in a short bit of time each week. Still, I no longer had any ideas of grandeur about finishing five more before Christmas.

Instead, I settled on these adorable miniature stockings:

I completed all five in only a couple months and was quite pleased with how they turned out. Of course, I am especially fond of the one I designed myself, the "flame" stocking for B's 12-1/2-year-old brother:

I am already gathering ideas for next year's ornaments because, clearly, starting early isn't an option—it's a must! If you have any suggestions for handmade ornaments, I'd love to hear them. You can post them below in the comments or email them to the address in the sidebar.

And stay tuned for more gift reveals—I can't wait to share them!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Great Two-Eight

I know a girl is never supposed to reveal her age, but I've never been very good at keeping secrets or, you know, lying. This past week I celebrated my 28th birthday. There. I said it. Now the whole world knows my age. Or at least the handful of people who read my blog. But I'm okay with that because so far being 28 has been great!

The main event of the week was a small dinner party with friends and family the day before my actual birthday—which was also my parents' 35th anniversary. Thus, I dubbed it the Anni-irthday Party. And it was grand. I thought you might enjoy a photo journal of the evening, so please excuse the inordinate number of pictures of ME. I know it's my blog and my birthday, but I still very strange posting all these pictures of, well, me.

The party was hosted by Dave and Carol, whom I often refer to as my "second parents." Good friends for more than 15 years, they are definitely part of the family. Carol decorated beautifully for the occasion:

Here I am in the Birthday Chair:

After eating our dinner of take-out Thai food—what could be better than peanut sauce, fried rice, and not having to cook?—we moved into the living room for gift opening:

My dad, the photographer for the evening, decides to add his feet to the picture for interest:

I decided to join in and show off my cute Christmas socks--just one of the many pairs I own:

My brother Carrington and his girlfriend Melissa anxiously wait for me to open my gifts:

First up, the gift from Dave and Carol:
Along with a 50$ gift card for purchasing art supplies (woohoo!), Carol also made two pairs of earring for me--in pink and purple, of course.  Yep, I'm kind of a girly girl.

Next, a funny card from Carrington and Melissa:

And an even funnier gift:

Okay, it wasn't really a Swiffer WetJet, but Carol thought it was and that made it even funnier.  The real gift was a super-soft scarf.  Here I am looking rather confused about what to do with it:

But don't worry, I figured it out eventually:

The special Swiffer box also contained TEA!  Here I am giddy with excitement:

And for the final gift of the evening, my parents gave me this:

In case you don't know, I'm a bit of a crockpot addict.  I use mine almost every week.  And this new one is a huge step up for me.  See how excited I am?

Dave and Carol also gave my parents this gigantic box of fancy chocolates for their anniversary:

While Carol and Mom get dessert ready, Dad and Dave hang out on the couch:

And Momma Cat joins in the excitement:

While Barney makes mischief under the tree:

Here comes homemade strawberry rhubarb pie!

Yep, it's great to be 28!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gift of Beauty

I have been enjoying an early birthday present this week.

Four years ago, my friend Rachel gave me a potted amaryllis bulb for my birthday. It wasn't in bloom at the time, and it would be a year before we discovered the color of its flowers: A joyous shade of peachy-orange with a light green center. Well worth the year-long wait.

Amazingly, it's bloomed every year since. The flowers just opened up this week, and thanks to the surprisingly abundant sunshine, I was finally able to get some good pictures. Here are some of my favorites:

Happy early birthday to me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Her Name Is Rael

Across the world in the African nation of Kenya, there is a little girl named Rael. She is just 8-1/2 years old, living with her mother, stepfather, and two siblings. She helps out her family by carrying water and gathering firewood, but when there is a moment for play, Rael loves ball games.

She is just like any girl her age.

Except she is poor.

Except she may go for days without food.

Except she has little access to clean water.

Except she lives under the constant threat of disease, violence, and abuse.

Yes, Rael is just a little girl. But she is in desperate need.

As part of Compassion International's Christmas project, I have agreed to spend the next 31 days praying specifically for Rael and seeking someone to be her sponsor. I will tell you upfront that I am afraid. Afraid that I will not have the courage to ask people to make such a commitment to Rael. Afraid that no one's heart will be broken for Rael. Afraid that at the end of these 31 days, I will have made no impact on Rael's future.

Yes, I am afraid.

But I am also full of hope.

I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that regardless of whether I find a sponsor for Rael before the end of the year, 31 days spent in prayer for her will not be in vain. I believe 31 days of prayer could change the course of Rael's life.

I also believe that God's heart is even more broken for Rael than mine is. I want her to be rescued. He wants to be her Rescuer. I want her to have hope for a better future. He wants her to have the hope of eternal life. I want her to know the love of a sponsor. He wants her to know the love of a Savior.

And I believe that God will stop at nothing to set this little girl free. Free from poverty. Free from fear. Free from hopelessness. Free from sin. Free.

Please join me in praying for Rael in the days ahead. And if you or someone you know is interested in giving hope to this little girl across the world in Kenya, please email me at Courtney AT GrowingIsBeautiful DOT com. The cost is $38/month but the most important gift you will give her is your love. Please visit the Compassion International website for more information about sponsorship and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Are Blessed

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Recently my pastor (aka my dad) gave out the challenge of being thankful for our spiritual blessings. He wanted us to think of a spiritual blessing for each of the letters in the word THANKFUL and back each blessing up with a scripture. I wasn't able to complete my assignment before our discussion this past Sunday but I found this exercise very rewarding and thought I would share. I came up with several answers for each letter but I am only going to share one for each because I want to encourage you to do this as well. We have so much to be thankful for every day, every moment. As the verse in Ephesians says, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every last one. Sometimes it doesn't quite feel that way, does it? And that's exactly why it is so important to stop and literally count and recount our blessings. I'm starting tonight with these eight spiritual blessings:

T—I am thankful for our TRIUMPH in Christ.

Romans 8:35-37—Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

H—I am thankful for the HOME waiting for us.

John 14:2-3—In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

A—I am thankful for our ACCEPTANCE in Christ.

Romans 15:5-7—May the god who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unit among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

N—I am thankful there is NO CONDEMNATION in Christ!

Romans 8:1-2—Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

K—I am thankful for chance to KNOW CHRIST.

Philippians 3:8-11—What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

F—I am thankful for the FORTRESS we have in God.

Psalm 18:1-2—I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

U—I am thankful for Christ's UNDERSTANDING of our weakness.

Hebrews 4:15—For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

L—I am thankful for the LIGHT OF THE WORLD
John 8:12—When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Okay, now it's your turn!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'Tis The Season...

...for redecorating!

I've made some changes to my blog design and decor, so for all of you subscribers to Google Reader--you really should click on over to the real thing and check out the excitement!  Okay, maybe it's not that exciting for you, but personally, I. Love. It.  Yep, I just went all super-cool on you and used the periods for emphasis.  What is the world coming to?

You will notice that my blog now has TWO sidebars.  That's right, thanks to the lovely people over at The Cutest Blog On The Blog, I managed to edit the HTML in my template and create TWO glorious sidebars to fill up with all manner of widgets, gadgets, and whatnot.  I have not yet had time to organize my sidebars and add new things yet, so don't be alarmed to see things moving around or magically appearing and disappearing.

And, yes, I decorated for Christmas BEFORE Thanksgiving.  I know, I know.  But I just couldn't wait any longer!  I've been wanting to redesign my blog with three columns for a while now and once I started playing around with it tonight, I couldn't help but go all the way.  My previous fall background didn't fit my three-column layout, so I was forced to choose a Christmas theme.  Okay, okay.  Who am I kidding?  I absolutely LOVE Christmas and pretty much NEVER make it to Thanksgiving without listening to Christmas music.  This holiday-themed designed makes me smile big every time I see it.  I hope it does the same for you.

I even added a few of my favorite Christmas songs into the music player (which is currently located in my top right sidebar, but I make no promises as to where it will be located when you try to find it!), so just press the play button if you'd like to add a little holiday serenade to your blog-reading experience.

Enjoy your visit and let me know if something is hard to find, doesn't work right, or needs a little tweaking.  I have no idea how to fix those things, but there is a chance I can find out!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Her Name Is Venti

For six years I have been the proud sponsor of a little girl through Compassion International. A little girl who lives across the world in Indonesia. A little girl who has grown up in abject poverty. A little girl who is just shy of her 13th birthday. A little girl whose name is Venti.

I have been meaning to tell you about Venti for a while now but it just hasn't happened. Tonight I have no choice. Tonight my heart is broken for my sweet, beautiful Venti who has almost nothing and yet has lost more than I can imagine.

I got a letter from Venti today. It was dated July 29, 2009. It's not unusual for our letters to take a few months to reach each other. That's one of the many hard things about loving, praying for, and believing in a child who lives a world away. But still we keep at it, wishing each other Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, or Happy Easter even when we know those special occasions will be three or four months in the past before our blessings reach the other's heart. Tonight, though, I would give almost anything to take back the four months that have passed since Venti wrote these words:

Dear Sister Courtney,

Thank you for the letter and picture. I keep the picture. I like the picture very much. I feel sad at the moment because my dearest mom has passed away. The picture from Sister has become my courage. Please pray for me, Sister, that God will give me strength. I believe she is now with Jesus and I will meet her someday. I can feel how Sister was feeling when you were left by your friend a few months ago. I will continue praying for Sister. Let us pray for each other that God will keep on encouraging us, Sister. I hope everything goes well with you. Please send my warm regards for your friends and family.

I will always miss you, Sister.


Now more than ever, I long to wrap this little girl in my arms and tell her I love. To cry with her, pray with her, whisper hope and blessings in her ear. Instead, it will be three more months before she will even read the words "I am so sorry. I love you. Please don't lose hope."

I have to be honest. After reading Venti's letter three times to be sure something hadn't been lost in the translation, my first thought was this: "God, how could you? Hasn't she suffered enough?" Yes, she has.

But the truth is that Venti is only one in a million. Make that many millions. Millions who have been born into nothing and still end up losing everything.

Venti, though she has already suffered much, is one of the few children who have hope. Venti, through the incredible work of Compassion International, is being released from poverty in the name of Jesus. And Venti has already been set free from the penalty of sin by Jesus himself.

Yes, Venti has suffered. Yes, Venti has lost too much. Yes, Venti has an uphill battle in front of her. But Venti belongs to a Father who will never leave her. And that means Venti has hope.

Please join me in praying for this little girl who has lost her mom. Pray for her dad who has lost his wife. Pray for the Compassion staff that they would know how to minister to Venti and give her hope. Pray that my letter would reach her quickly. Pray that she would not lose heart. Pray that God would wrap her in His arms of comfort and protection. Please just pray.

And if you feel compelled to give a child hope, please visit the Compassion International website and sponsor a child. I don't know if it will change your life. But it absolutely will change the future for a child who is currently lost among the millions.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cranberry Mandarin Sauce

Last weekend I discovered a delicious cranberry-mandarin sauce which shall henceforth become my official holiday sauce. And honestly, I may just eat it all year long. It's that good. I made it to accompany the spiral-cut ham we served at our church Luau Dinner last Sunday, but I think it would go equally well with chicken or turkey—and I dare say it would also be a mighty fine ice cream topping. Of course, it's great straight off the spoon, too! In case you, too, would like to add this fabulous sauce to your holiday meals, here's the recipe:

1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 can (16 oz) whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup mandarin oranges (canned), drained and cut in small pieces

Mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and cloves in sauce pan. Gradually stir in cranberry juice and orange juice. Cook over medium heat until fairly thick, stirring frequently. Stir in the whole berry cranberry sauce until it dissolves. Stir in mandarin orange pieces and serve.

As a side note, we were joking about coming up with a name for this sauce by combining "cranberry" and "mandarin." We came up with Man-Berry Sauce. And the name stuck. Probably permanently. So enjoy this fabulous Man-Berry Sauce with your next holiday meal. It smells AND tastes amazing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And The Winner Is...

I know you've all been waiting FOREVER for me to announce the winner of the scarf giveaway.  I'm a little slow.  Or a little busy.  Or a whole lot busy.  In any case, I decided to do this the old-fashioned way.  I actually wrote down each person's name on a slip of paper, put them in a hat, mixed them all up, and then drew out a name without looking.  It just seemed kind of silly to use a random-number generator when there were only eight entries to choose from.  So without further prolongation of your agonizing wait, the winner of the very first giveaway on Growing Is Beautiful is...

Mama Griffith from The Great Griffith Caper!

Congratulations, Mama Griffith!  Send your mailing address to Courtney AT GrowingIsBeautiful DOT com and I promise to get your scarf in the mail before too awfully long.

To everyone who entered and didn't win, I feel terrible!  And I'm not just saying that.  If Christmas wasn't coming up in a mere 50 days, I would be tempted to make something for ALL of you.  I guess I will just have to plan on having many more blog giveaways in the future so you will all get a chance to win. 

Happy Thursday to all of you and if you don't hear from me for a while, remember that I'm slow.  And a little busy.  Okay, a whole lot busy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Painting Scripture

This week we celebrated my friend Steve's 34th birthday—complete with party harts and hilarious party favors. I often have a difficult time coming up with gift ideas for guys. I suppose that's because most of the guys in my life are not sentimental, and I tend to give sentimental gifts. Thankfully, Steve is a writer, photographer, and artist extraordinaire, and that makes gift giving a whole lot easier.

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to attempt a painting for Steve. I've really only dabbled in painting, most of it done in my Art 101 class in college and a few things over the ensuing years. Last Christmas, as a gift for my brother, I did my first canvas painting and used acrylic paint with a thickening medium mixed in. It turned out fairly well considering I have no drawing ability and the fact that I was making it for my somewhat un-sentimental brother:
Sadly, the picture doesn't show the colors very well, especially the variations in the water. But you can get the general idea, I think. I'm not convinced my brother liked it and I'm quite certain it is tucked away in a box or closet somewhere. Ah well. Such is the constant struggle of gifting to people who are so very different than me. I am still on the fence about whether to attempt another creative gift for my brother this year or to go with something more practical and thus more likely to be used and appreciated.

For Steve's painting I decided to go back to what I love most about painting: Color, color, and more color. I also wanted it to reflect Steve's great passion for spiritual growth and his efforts to pioneer an amazing small group model known as Christlikeness Groups. The main purpose in these groups is to encourage, support, and challenge one another to pursue the character of Christ in our daily lives. The first verse that came to mind for me as a representation of this was Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

In essence, the character of Christ is the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot become more like Christ apart from the Spirit, both in the long-term development of our character and in the moment-by-moment empowering to act according to the spiritual nature. Thus, I decided I wanted this painting to serve as an abstract representation of the fruit of the Spirit, assigning each attribute a color and somehow incorporating them all into a harmonious whole.

As I began to flesh out the logistics of this idea, however, I had a little revelation about the fruit of the Spirit. This passage from 1 Corinthians came to mind:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

It seems clear from these verses that love is not just another characteristic of Christ or another dimension of the fruit of the Spirit. Love, in fact, is composed of all the other attributes combined. Love is not just one color; love is all colors and then some. And that idea led me to create this painting:
Again, the photo doesn't quite capture the depth of color and shading, but it's pretty close. Overall, I am very pleased with how it turned out. If you haven't gathered this already, I love color. I used about 25 colors for the outer circle and then combined all of them for the center space. I had the hardest time with the words, not just in the painting of them but in the choosing of where they should go.

When I initially came up with this idea, I wanted to choose a color that represented each attribute to me. For instance, the first color that comes to mind when I think of peace is blue. But as I went through the eight characteristics, I realized most of them I associated with the cooler colors of purple, blue, and green. In fact, the only ones I immediately pictured as warm or loud colors were joy and self-control. I spent a long time pondering this and trying out different combinations before settling on the final arrangement. Moving "faithfulness" to the warm side of the circle was a pretty easy transition for me because faith is so multi-faceted. Yes, it can be the quiet strength that holds us together but it can also be the active straining, fighting, and persisting as we seek to follow God's will and become more like Christ. Although I was initially resistant to placing "patience" on the color yellow, I realized that patience is best displayed in situations that are anything BUT calm, quiet, and peaceful. So even though these weren't necessarily the colors I would have chosen on first instinct, the end result seems just right.

When I gave the painting to Steve, he pointed out something I had missed entirely. I had not intended the center to be in any particular shape, mostly just wanting the borders to be fluid and unpredictable. Turns out, though, that it is actually in the shape of a bird:
Can you see it? The beak and head are at the top left, the tail feathers at the bottom right, and the two wings in between. Ever since Steve pointed that out, I can't stop seeing it when I look at the painting. It reminds me of this verse from Jesus' baptism:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)

I love how God shows up in the smallest places. Not because He has to or because we ask Him to or because we might notice it. He just shows up because He wants to, because He's God, because He loves us. Isn't He great?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Giving Love

I love giving gifts. I've never read any of those love-language books, so I can't tell you whether there is anything spiritual, genetic, or otherwise important about the fact that I love giving gifts. I can tell you, though, that it is one of the main reasons I relish the celebration of Christmas. I know. It seems almost sacrilegious to admit that I rejoice in something besides the birth of Christ during this time of year. But before you ex-communicate me or say any prayers for this "heathen," allow me to explain.

When I give gifts, it's not about the money or the stuff. It's about love. When I was growing up, each member of the family would make a "Christmas List" with all their heart's desires so that we could buy gifts that wouldn't be returned or, worse yet, stashed away in the back of a closet, never to be seen again. It was a very practical plan. And mostly it worked well. But as I got into my mid teens, I began to have this deep desire to buy things NOT on the prescribed gift lists. I wanted my gift to be a surprise. I wanted to take the time to listen and observe, pick up clues to what each person needed or would enjoy. Because what I really wanted to give was not any particular item. I wanted to give love. I wanted them to know that I knew them and understood what was important to them, even without them spelling it out.

I wanted them to know that I loved them.

And isn't that what the birth of our Savior is all about? For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. God wanted us to know that He knew us and understood our greatest desires and our deepest needs, even when we were mostly unaware of them ourselves.

He wanted us to know that He loved us.

It seems only fitting, then, that Christmas—the celebration of Christ's birth—should be about love. Love for our God. Love for our family. Love for our friends. Love for our enemies. Love for a world in great need of a Savior. And for me, giving a gift is the way I best say, "I love you. You matter to me. Thank you for being in my life."

So why all this Christmas talk in the middle of October? Because the gift-making process is well underway in my little corner of the world. About 90% of my gifts are handcrafted in some fashion or another, and it takes a lot of time to create that much love! I always have great aspirations about completing my gifts before Thanksgiving, but I have yet to pull that one off. Maybe next year. Or the year after. Or maybe never.

As I was going through my art supplies in preparation for making gifts, I came across an unfinished crochet project I started more than a year ago. Okay, unfinished is not the right word. Barely started is more accurate. Out of eight pattern repeats, I had only finished one and started on the second. It was intended to be a blanket—the first blanket I wasn't making as a gift. And that was part of the problem. I have a hard time making things for myself, unless they are small or very practical. I didn't need the blanket. And it was taking forever to make. But it was beautiful and I kept holding onto the hope that someday I would find the motivation to work on it again. As I pulled it out of the bin a couple weeks ago, I finally came to terms with the fact that, at least for this season of life, I am never going to finish that blanket.

And that's okay. Because I've found something fun to do with the part I've already stitched. I'm going to give it away.

It turns out that a single pattern repeat makes a perfect scarf. All I had to do was rip out a few rows of stitches from the second pattern repeat, add a finishing row, tie on some tassels, and voila---it's a scarf!

And it can be your scarf. That's right. I'm doing my first giveaway here on Growing Is Beautiful! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and let me know you want to be included. The deadline to enter is midnight on October 31, 2009, and I will randomly draw a name shortly thereafter and announce the winner. By "shortly thereafter," I mean sometime in the day or two following the end of the contest—not shortly after midnight. Just in case you were wondering about that. I'll be posting the link to this on Facebook as well, so if you feel more comfortable leaving a comment there, that would be just as good.

Here are the specs on this lovely handmade scarf:
6.5 inches wide by 55 inches long
3-inch tassels on each end
Made with 100% acrylic yarn

Here are a few more pictures, close-ups of the tassels and the pattern:

So what are you waiting for? The odds of winning are pretty good since I have less than a dozen regular readers. C'mon, join the fun!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Forgive You

Two steps forward,one step back
Sometimes no steps forward, all steps back

I forgive you

I say the words over and over
Hoping, praying, believing
They will someday reach my heart
Someday be true

I forgive you

The wounds are deep and sometimes I am angry
But I still love you and that's the hardest part

I forgive you

I don't know if we will ever be "we" again
But I am praying for reconciliation
Praying for you, praying for me
Praying for us

I forgive you

Slowly I am healing
Slowly I am making peace
But it isn't once for all
It's the everyday choice
To let it go, to forgive

I forgive you

Today I choose forgiveness
Maybe I haven't forgiven you yet
But I am forgiving you
And I will keep on doing it
Until there is no need to tell you
Because you will already know

I forgive you

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

On the last official day of summer, I was able to get over to the Washington Park Arboretum again for pictures. Whenever the leaves start changing in the fall—on any tree anywhere in the city—I immediately get antsy, afraid that I am going to miss out on the spectacular colors of the season if I don't hurry over to the Arboretum as soon as possible. Of course, I always find out that I am way ahead of the game and there are only a small portion of trees that have taken on their fall color. But it puts my mind at ease for a few weeks and I also have the privilege of capturing the last blooms of summer and the first signs of fall. Really it's a win-win situation.

I spent a lot of my time "looking up" on this trip to the Arboretum, so much so that I actually got a crick in my neck. But it was well worth the effort for pictures like these:


 (Don't miss the enormous spider web in the upper right corner of this last picture—clicking on the picture will make it larger. I didn't see it when I took the picture but noticed it when I was editing.)

I also found a few flowers to photograph, including the rare and elusive Franklin Tree (Franklinia alatamaha). Okay, it's not really elusive. I simply couldn't find it last year when I traipsed all over the Arboretum last year looking for it. This time I found it by accident, of course. What's special about this plant is the fact that it blooms in the late summer/early fall and the later blooms are framed by orange, red, and purple leaves as the fall color sets in. Right now the leaves haven't started to change colors yet, but the beautiful white blooms are beginning to open:

Berries were in abundant supply this year and came in a variety of colors, from white to pink to red to yellow. I like this particular photo because it came out looking more like a painting than a photograph:

I was also fortunate enough to get this shot of a bee:
He looks rather scary to me but it's still amazing to see him in this much detail.

After some deliberation, I've decided on this picture as my favorite shot from the set:

I had a lot of favorites, but this one stood out the most and I kept coming back to it. The angle draws me in and pulls me up. The flower seems confident, strong, and determined but still with softness and femininity. It inspires me in my journey toward becoming not only a strong person of God but also a strong woman of God. And you thought it was just a silly little flower!

You can see my best shots from this set by clicking on the slideshow below or you can use the "see it larger" link at the bottom, which will take you directly to my photography site where you can view them in full screen.  Enjoy!