The Wonder of It All

The beauty of small wonders, a gnarled tree covered in moss, deep in the forest.

During my early childhood years our family lived in a rural area of Oxfordshire. We were surrounded by small farms with livestock and grain fields. Wooded areas and copses were abundant.  Groves of oaks, elms, and horse chestnut trees were scattered around the countryside. Gnarled weeping willows lined the banks of trickling streams and small ponds fed by the frequent drizzle, so typical of England. Everything was lush and green.

Growing up in that untamed environment was magical. My friends and I would immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature for hours after school and on weekends. We marveled at beautiful treasures hidden in every hedgerow, thicket, field and stream.

We were never bored. There was so much to see and do; from catching tadpoles, to discovering bird nests, to climbing willow trees, to collecting wild flowers, to searching for the biggest conkers. It was a time of innocence—enchanting and carefree. I learned wonderment. The beauty of small miracles that feed the soul. 

I believe those moments in my formative years instilled a permanent sense of wonder in me. Ever since I was a child I have been captured by the magnificence of Nature. The beauty of every living thing captivates me and holds my soul hostage. I become spellbound by the wonder of it all, so much so that when I see such raw beauty I feel compelled to capture it on film, so as never to lose the magic of the encounter. Oh, what a Creator we have who delights us with His stunning creations. 

With all of that said, I have joined a group called The 100 Days of Wonder 2024. Read more here if you’re interested. Suffice it to say I am excited to challenge myself for the next 100 days. It’s a huge leap of faith for me as this is one of the busiest times of this year for us. We are preparing for a major trip in March for our 60th anniversary. A new roof is about to go on our house. I have a health and wellness business to manage. Daily chores to tend to. Need I go on? 

AND, after 40 odd years of not creating a painting (and back then it was with oils) I am endeavoring to paint some watercolors. No, there will likely not be 100 paintings created, but I will complete at least one per week during the time frame, and more as time permits. What I am promising myself is to create something—a story, a sketch, a painting or some artsy or literary “creation” that has inspired me, fed my soul, or given me cause for wonderment. 

The leader of this group, D. Michele Perry, whom I randomly discovered on Instagram @dmicheleperry, and to whom I give credit for inspiring me to step up and start painting watercolors, will email participants one word per day—they come in a group of seven on a Saturday—one for each day of the week.  The project begins tomorrow, February 18th.

Two of the first group of seven words are “Forest and Moss”. I immediately thought of our holiday in the Lake District last year where Chuck captured the above photo of me marveling at this moss-laden tree, deep in the woods.

I am wondering which single word, or combination of the seven words will propel me into creative action this coming week? It’s going to be a fun, fulfilling activity. After all, aren’t we destined to create too?

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. —Genesis 1:27

An Epic Sixty Years

How does one find the words to portray sixty years of marriage? It’s virtually impossible! Wasn’t it only yesterday that we stood at the altar, so young, so vulnerable, so passionately in love, and so grateful to be in that defining moment, with our whole life before us. There, in that beautiful, 12th century English church, before God and fewer than 50 guests, we gazed into each other’s eyes and solemnly pledged our vows, declaring our undying love for one another. For eternity. 

It was a glorious day. The weather? Not so much. It was a cold, damp February day, but that mattered not to us. We were to be married. Our hearts were on fire.

It was a small wedding with only family and close friends. The church seated fifty people, but oh the history of St. Nicolas Church, at Forest Hill. Everything about our wedding was minimal, but our love was there in abundance. My dress? White velvet, sewn by yours truly on a hand propelled Singer sewing machine, decorated with a few covered buttons down the back bodice, and a strip of fluffy swan’s down to soften the scooped neckline. My head dress and veil? Borrowed from a loving aunt.

One groomsman stood by Chuck, his best man, and I was attended by one bridesmaid—my best friend since we were 14 years old. She was adorned in a sleeveless yellow gown that I had worn as a bridesmaid for an Aunt’s wedding two years before. She and my sweet little cousin, the flower girl, wearing a white velvet dress I’d made from my leftover material, shivered uncontrollably in the frosty air of early February. The organ music was beautiful and light filtered through the stained glass windows adding a glow of warm tones to the flagstones in the cool sanctuary. We sang a hymn or two, we pledged our vows, the vicar said a prayer for our marriage, and we place rings on our fingers.

Chuck gently pushed back my veil. The first kiss for his bride. We were married! Then off to a small reception at Studley Priory Hotel before leaving for The Shakespeare Hotel in Stratford upon Avon for our first night. As luck would have it, the proprietor saw confetti falling from my hat, and he comped us the honeymoon suite. What a gift!

And thus married life began for Mr. & Mrs. Charles Tripp.

Yes, nothing short of epic can describe the enormity of sixty stunning years of married life. The ups and downs and all arounds that inevitably are intertwined in a lasting marriage. The challenges and perks of a military life, the responsibilities and thrills of raising three precious children, the time invested and satisfaction reaped from building a successful home business. The sheer joy of loving our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Generational love is the circle of life. So many stories we could share. And oh, my goodness, the meaningful moments, the millions of magical memories. Let’s not forget our hope for the future and the daily gratitude we express for being healthy. Best of all? We still have each other. Oh, how greatly God has blessed our union.

And, at the heart of our marriage, a faithful God. Our unconditional love has grown ever deeper with each passing year, through all the peaks and valleys of life. Thank you Lord for bringing us together and watching over us for sixty years, and for those yet to to come. 

 

And Into the Forest I Go

Meanwhile back at the ranch ……. after a busy week of ups and downs it’s time to rest.

The sun’s shining after a heavy storm last night. A fox scampers towards the thickly wooded area beyond the upper meadow and sits for a moment beneath one of the trees you see in the painting. He ponders my whereabouts briefly before disappearing into the woods to hide, instinctively aware that I’m heading into the forested area too. For tranquility. He understands why. How well he knows the wonder of the woods. The textures, the hues, wafts of earthy fragrances, and sun rays sparkling through the dense foliage. The sheer beauty of nature heals the soul.

After a while I return to dabble with some watercolors. It’s just postcard size—and a start! I’ve not painted in years, and only with oils, but I was recently inspired to venture beyond my artistic comfort zone. It’s good to set aside time for creative expression.

Our souls need it.

And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.
—John Muir

 

 

Tinsel Tarnishes and Christmas Lights Grow Dim

The gifts may be forgotten from year to year – but cherished memories live on forever.

Christmas is my most favorite time of year! There’s no denying that I LOVE it. I’ve always been enchanted by this special time. It started when I was a child and I’ve never lost the joy and sense of family that comes with the holiday season. For me, it’s the whole package, not only the ones under the tree.

It’s the celebration of the birth of Christ, the personification of LOVE. It’s Santa Claus, snowmen, cold weather, and darker nights. It’s the twinkling bright lights of Christmas, the traditional foods, and arrival of family. Anticipating Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, is part of the whole experience. The build-up is such fun! Who’s coming this year to celebrate Christmas with us? Where will we place the tree? What memories will we make and what will surprise and delight us the most?

I’m all in for surprises—giving them to our loved ones brings me great joy. Seeing the surprise reveal itself through the recipient’s eyes brings the gift to life for me. It’s like seeing it for the first time. So many memories are created each Christmas that will live on long after the tinsel has gone and the lights are out.

It’s one more reason I am excited—not sad—to dismantle all the decorations and reestablish “normalcy” in our home. The ornaments are gone, but the memories we create live on. By the way, we did that today. We lovingly packed away all our special Christmas ornaments and treasures. They’re all snuggled in their containers until next year. It feels so good to have the house back to the usual décor since it puts our minds in gear to prepare for the New Year and the hopes and dreams we plan to turn into reality in 2024! Goals to set, plans to put into action! But I digressed and got ahead of myself—let me go back.

Of course the “look and feel” of Christmas is different today from when I was a child but the long-standing traditions perpetuate in the same way. Even the stockings look different. As a child in England in the 1940-50’s, my stocking was a real stocking—the kind that was actually worn by my mother back then (not pantyhose) STOCKINGS that were suspended by a garter belt! We would leave a mincemeat tart and warm milk for Santa, and he would leave the filled stocking at the end of my bed so it was there when I awoke on Christmas morning. It was a delight each year, always an apple in the toe and an orange in the heel, and Cadbury’s chocolate in between. The rest of the toys and goodies bulged and rustled as the stretchy stocking conformed to the shape of the toy—and it held a LOT! Dolls were my big passion back then and there was always a doll!

Breakfast was next and then we opened the rest of the presents from under the tree  while the Christmas carols were playing on the radio or gramophone—beautiful traditional carols, sung usually by a boy’s choir, often broadcast live from one of the British cathedrals.

That brings us back to the tree. It was always a real one, and fresh! It didn’t go up until around the 22nd or 23rd of December—some year’s maybe even on Christmas Eve, and all the family participated in decorating. There were icicles and glass balls and real candles secured tightly into clips that grasped the tree branches. A fairy adorned the top of our tree. Lastly the silver tinsel hung like real icicles, hung strand by strand, the more the better. At some point the candles were lit! Imagine that! The tree had to be fresh and green to decrease the chances of fire. It was indeed a sight to behold and a very special time. Those bygone times have vanished forever, but the memories live on, the experiences retold, and thus the sentiments relived.

If we had snow for Christmas it was perfect! Let the sledding commence! And ne’er a year went by when we didn’t go caroling door to door in the neighborhood. Times were different back then, simpler and more defined, with less confusion. If political correctness existed back then, I was oblivious to it! Yes, we had school plays that retold the birth of baby Jesus and all the kids sung carols. Dare I say it? There was a prayer spoken by the school principal, wishing peace on earth and goodwill to all! And why not? Isn’t that what everyone wants? Peace on earth and goodwill to all?

So Christmas 2023 has come and gone. The family came and went. The tree is down. All that remains is the occasional glint from tiny flecks of glitter, sprinkled about the house, reminders of the sparking tree and centerpieces. Oh yes, and a few remnants of home-cooked goodies—especially the yummy fruitcake!

Of course, we hold close the warm memories we created this past year! It will all return to delight us again in 2024. Meantime, what fun lies ahead between Christmas 2023 and 2024? Many happy surprises—that’s what we hope for, for you and for us! Make 2024 your happiest, healthiest and most successful year ever!

I wrote this little poem in 2010, after packing away all the Christmas decorations. Enjoy!

The stockings are folded with such loving care
The tree is boxed up, and the mantle looks bare.
The snowmen and Santas are snuggled together,
They’re safe and protected from outside weather.

The brilliant-lit star and nativity scene
Having brightened our lives, are off to dream
Until Christmas season is here next year,
And the colorful ornaments return to cheer.

From out of their boxes they’ll spring fresh and new
The old family favorites are most loved, it’s so true.
But not one decoration can produce such joy
As celebrating the birth of that baby boy.

Tinsel tarnishes and Christmas lights grow dim
But the everlasting light that shines from HIM
Gladdens our hearts with real Christmas cheer!
We can’t snuff it out. It shines brightly all year.
—Anthea

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” —John 8:12

Over Hill and Dale

The last two days in the Lake District our hiking boots toughed out a rugged workout over hill and dale. We followed two separate walking trails wending our way over jagged, steep, and often slick, rocky stretches for a total of 10 miles—4 miles the first day and 6 the next. We were thankful for sturdy, waterproof hiking boots that kept our feet dry and comfortable, while providing critical ankle support.

Admittedly, both trails were challenging for us and I’m happy to say we completed what we set out to do. The scenic beauty, the solitude, and the refreshing mountain air was worth each and every single step upward.

Could we have accomplished more? Yes! But we weighed our desire against the risks and chose to be satisfied with what we achieved. We could have climbed higher but  the trail grew increasingly more dangerous so prudence prevailed and we decided it was not the time to throw caution to the wind—one misstep on a ragged, slippery rock could have meant an unpleasant end to the magnificence of our adventures.

The first day we hiked high above Windermere for a breathtaking view of the Lake.

We stopped a short distance from the highest viewpoint of the Post Knott walk due to the dangerous conditions of the steep trail but even the elevation where we decided to stay offered a fantastic panoramic view.

Our last day in Cumbria was nothing short of magical and invigorating. We rode to the village of Grasmere on the top deck of an open-air, double-decker bus. Arriving at the village, we paused for coffee before embarking on a 6 mile hike over hill and dale to Easedale Tarn, high up the mountain beyond Easedale waterfall.

On the way we traversed lush green pastures where we roamed through flocks of grazing sheep who would stop chewing momentarily to stare at us, curious but seemingly unconcerned by our intrusion.

We crossed narrow bridges over babbling brooks. We climbed over wooden stiles, we opened metal farm gates and secured them behind us. We were mesmerized by the multitude of slate dry walls sprawling like patchwork over miles of green meadows. We followed the winding way alongside the sparkling Easdale Beck which flowed from the waterfall high above us, tumbling over small rapids here and there, loudly singing its melodious song all the way! We trudged over steep gravel trails and plodded along rocky paths. We paused often, breathing in the pure fresh air, all the while marveling at the indescribable beauty of our surroundings.

Truly beyond the din, we were immersed in nature, surrounded by God’s artistry. It’s exactly what we needed and desired—a device detox and a break from routine. We are so grateful for the multitude of meaningful moments. 

We didn’t quite reach the tarn itself—the narrow, rock-studded trail forward was wet and slimy with moss so we thought it best not to risk climbing farther. We left the final steep part of the hike to those fancying themselves a bit more goat-like!

We rested beside the waterfall for half an hour fascinated by a sheep—at first glance we thought it was a goat—perched on a high ledge. The cool air was invigorating. We inhaled the breathtaking panoramic views hoping to forever permeate our souls with the moment before slowly winding our way back down the rock-strewn fell and into the village pub for a welcome, and well-earned pint. Guinness for me, Peroni for Chuck.

Grasmere is renowned as the home of Romantic Poet, William Wordsworth. He described it as “The most loveliest spot that man hath found.” Positioned near Grasmere Lake, the village is encircled by a panorama of fells and mountains providing atmospheric inspiration to writers, poets and artists. For sure it inspired us. Thank you Lord for the gift of this wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Then came the bus ride back to the Old England Hotel in Windermere where we would spend our last night, before traveling by train to visit dear friends in Mixtow, Cornwall, where a new adventure beckoned.

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher — William Wordsworth

Just Show Up

Just Show Up! Three simple words that are powerfully freeing. Take them to heart. Remember them for the times they’re needed.

Life today can be overwhelming. We’re bombarded with information from all our devices. We overload and overcommit ourselves as we’re pulled and shoved in different directions simultaneously. Some of the burden is thrust upon us, much of it we’ve invited! We have “musts” and “want-to’s” all competing for our precious time, money and attention. It can be stressful.

When you hit the wall, you might feel like giving in or giving up. Paralysis takes over so you do nothing. I hope you don’t fall into that trap.

Instead, decide on something! Take the first step—just show up.

? Can’t drink the whole shake? Drink half
? Can’t walk for 30 minutes? Walk 10 minutes
? Can’t clean the whole house? Clean one room
? Can’t complete everything on your to-do list? Complete one thing

You get the gist. It’s okay to not be superhuman all the time, or even at any time simply because it’s expected, or asked of you. Be discerning in the way you commit your time and energy. Both are precious, and finite. Whatever it is you choose from your to-do list—just show up in some small way. Feel good about that!

The world demands we’re busy “doing” all the time. I could provide example after crazy example of unrealistic expectations imposed on us—by ourselves, others and our culture. What we should do, how we should look, and who we should be, are constantly thrown in our faces on social media platforms. Browsing the posts is like ADHD on steroids. It can fry your brain, and crush your soul. ?

Resolve to take time to breathe. Be still. It’s your life to live your way. Be patient. Pace yourself. Be kind to yourself. Walk with God. And remember, there are times when just showing up is enough. ?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing —John 15;5 (NIV)

A Few Sips of Wine

Meanwhile back at the ranch. It’s early evening. Sparkling sun rays beam through the whispering oaks, beckoning us to sit amongst them on the deck.

There, engulfed in nature’s green vibrancy, we relax with a small glass of juicy wine, gleaming deep red in the stemless glasses. Not a full glass, not even half full—just a few flavorful sips to awaken the taste buds.

So grateful for simple pleasures in life. Time to just be. Meaningful moments with my love. Small chunks of quiet togetherness carved from the distractions of a noisy world. Stillness. Sounds of nature. Serenity. A heart full of gratitude and a soul that sings. ??

A few sips in my glass, yet my cup overflows. Find joy in the moments. What simple pleasures fill your cup?

 

Simply Content

See here’s the thing! You may attain a certain stage of life where you are simply content. You are comfortable in your own skin, at peace with who you are, and proud of how far you’ve come. You are satisfied with all you’ve accomplished in life to this point. You are happy with your choices. You’re calm, clear and confident in the reasoning that prompted those decisions.

You feel content and serene.  Continue reading →

Higgledy-Piggledy Thoughts and Words!

I know this sounds strange but this actually is a very profound statement. It’s so true of me.

Let me ask you a question. Do you ever have a rush of thoughts that flit around your mind like a flurry of snowflakes whirling in the wind on a wintry day? Such flashes of elusive thoughts are hard to capture in your head, so I find it helpful to write them down and organize into some form of meaningful expression.

As a writer, I do it all the time! I call it creative writing!! I convert higgledy-piggledy thoughts from my head into written words to make more sense of them. Then, after reading those words, I can clarify precisely what I was thinking. Make sense?

Try it sometime!!

A Dream Within a Dream

Tony Shipperlee 2008, at the Fleet Air Arm Museum beside a Supermarine Walrus.

Perhaps the only thing more rewarding than fulfilling your own dream is to bring the dreams of another to fruition. A generational dream—or a dream within a dream.

Several years ago, I read Chase the Lion, an inspirational book by Mark Batterson, where he introduces the concept of generational dreams. His words are compelling. The concept he shares lodged deep-down in my memory bank, and only surfaced when a set of circumstances aligned, reminding me of his words and bringing them to life.

It always amazes me how orderly life is. Even amidst the chaos, time and sequence of events are relevant. Let me put it another way—God’s plans and his timing are always perfect. We may be perplexed. He is not. Continue reading →