The quest for simplicity and minimalism pleasantly escape me when presented with this week’s Photo Challenge, Ornate:


Near my beach we have special ambassadors to our area, young ladies who welcome all and brighten everything with their gracious presence, extending Southern hospitality to the rest of the world.

They are the Azalea Trail Maids and the Dogwood Trail Maids. I spied the two lovely ladies above at a local Suicide Prevention/Awareness event recently.

You may have seen them in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, at the White House for President Obama’s inauguration or just about anywhere.


They are chosen for their character, grades, accomplishments and their poise. Their costumes weigh 40-50 lbs, there is only one allowed to wear pink (the Queen Maid) and they can stash their cell phones in the handy pantaloons they wear under the hoop skirt (shhhh!).


The graceful Maids go through a rigorous process of selection that would make Miss America run for the hills, right down to a painful tradition of having to sit on an uncomfortable triangle-seated chair for the duration of the judges’ interviews. Little girls have aspirations of one day becoming a Trail Maid, yet another one of the South’s fine traditions…


Our Trail Maids are the epitome of Southern culture – always pleasant, gracious and refined. Especially the Queen Maid.

(well, usually….)


Thanks, God, for giving us the ornate in simplicity, for the greatest of gifts in the smallest of packages, like eternal life from a mustard seed of faith.

I love this week’s Photo Challenge which is all about taking something and running with it – about going many steps beyond your wildest dreams.

Never believe that the impossible isn’t possible or that a dark and gloomy prognosis means the end of the track.

From a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, 8 months old…told IF he lived, he would be in a vegetative state and die by age 4…

…to Special Olympics, 2015 – Kissing a pretty girl fifteen years later makes it well worth coming out of a coma and surviving!

 Believe in the extraordinary – faith, hope and love are the greatest of gifts.

Thanks, God, for second, third and fourth chances. And tenth and seventy-seventh chances. 

You know, God, sometimes I think that Your lessons about faith, hope and love are as much about our aspirations as they are a reminder of Your unwavering faith, hope and love for us. It IS a two-way street, isn’t it? 

That when our ordinary faith, hope and love stray, You – our Rock – never lose those three things for us, and it is Your extraordinary faith in us, Your hope in our return and Your eterrnal love for us draws us back and is what causes such rejoicing among the angels when we return.

Many happy and extraordinary returns!

Boundaries define our limits…but boundaries are also fluid as we grow and change.

Never say never…


God, thank You for stretching us and bringing us back to You, bungee-cord-style. Thanks for always being there for us to come back to.

Thank You for understanding, generations-old straying and for appreciating the beauty of willful return of the Prodigal Sons (and daughters) Thank You for always taking us back in. And even going as far as to celebrate with the best of the reserve, no less! We are SO not worthy.

Let us never stray purposefully or ever take advantage of Your rejoicing at our choice to return, despite our many sojourns away from You.

Thank You for being the Rock of our Return.

There aren’t too many bad days at the beach, so it was difficult to choose a photo for this Photo Challenge:Weekly Photo Challenge

But a partly sunny/partly cloudy day sometimes yields the best waves for those who are up to the challenge.

This surfer girl was not hesitating, she was studying her male counterparts to see where best to get the most out of her day.

Hey, God – Thank You for good waves to ride when the conditions seem too challenging. May we see our days as partly sunny instead of partly cloudy.

Help us to rise to the challenge and trust that we just might have the time of our life if we brave the elements and jump in for the adventure.

Let us remember that sunny days don’t always sharpen us, and rough seas can sometimes teach us more than calm waters.

For this week’s  Weekly Photo Challenge, I offer the face of an angel with boundless joy:


David, at Special Olympics, this past May.

Thank You, God, for untold joy, for unstoppable joy that springs from unspeakable grief. For spontaneous joy, for the unexpected, the unseekable that presents itself and makes life worth every hardship.

Thanks for the unending hope of joy, for using each of us to inspire one another to keep seeking You and the untold riches of joy You offer.

I love close ups. There are universes in microcosms, n’est-ce pas?

And vice versa, when you consider the big picture includes a glimpse of the life of American icons’ private lives…  
Thanks, God, for the big picture You provide and the close-up version we so often see up close and personal. Sometimes when we look closely we see Your big picture and the other way around. 

Thank You, God, for Your depth in the far-sighted and for Your finding a way to show us the path regardless of how closely or how far our gaze takes us toward or away from You…

Thanks for always guiding our gaze towards You, no matter how far we stray…

 Symbol of summer…sunrise on Ono Island, Alabama:  


Thank You, God, for some of the best summer memories yet, symbols of dreams come true…and glimpses of Heaven itself.


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