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This Laughing Gull scored a piece of post-Mardi Gras goodness, a piece of caramel corn from a bag caught from a float during a parade two weeks ago (extra points for snagging it from the boy’s hand on a moving ferry boat):

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Thanks, God, for unexpected treats and blessings – the kind that seem to show up when all we were doing was going on about our business.

Thank You for giving us courage to snag the prize in the face of risk and sheer faith…how sweeter the reward when we have to work harder for it!

For more rewards, click HERE.

Each year, large and colorful banana spiders weave incredibly artful webs all along the Gulf Coast…

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This one has just caught an insect and was wrapping it up with silk to save for later.

For more photo challenges, see this week’s Rule of Thirds

Thanks, God, for the wonder of Your beauty all around us…for what we see up close and for what is not so clear, in the background, blurry and out of reach.

Haunted

For more self-expressions, please visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

A different take on “new” for this week’s Photo Challenge:

When you have dementia or Alzheimer’s, what’s old is brand new. Every day is a new day, every experience is brand new.

Most of us are inclined to feel pity or sadness for people who live out their last days with such a diagnosis, but really, you’d have to see the brand new joy it to believe it…

My mother with dementia became utterly enamored with the wind-up cymbal-clashing chimp she “gave” her six-year-old grandson this Christmas – the very gift she gave to me when I was three.

She had forgotten what joy such a toy brought, and when he opened it, she latched on to it, began to talk to it and babied it, wound it up multiple times and clapped with delight!

what's old is new

(take note of the fruitcake she was enjoying at the time, a gift her brother sent her…he sent the rest of us “mixed nuts.” We tried unsuccessfully not to laugh at the subliminal parallels…)

Meanwhile, our fourteen year old son with Down syndrome had talked for over a month about wanting nothing but a baby for Christmas. At first we thought he was bluffing or we were misunderstanding his convoluted speech, which is still at an infantile level.

We thought he was over the “baby” phase years ago. But he wasn’t kidding (here, his six-year-old brother helped him unwrap his gift):

joy

Again, what we thought was old or not age-appropriate, was brand new all over again – and brought new joys that we, in our worldly “wisdom,” never would have anticipated.

David was thrilled – and takes her everywhere he goes, is mindful to feed her when he eats, takes her to the potty when he goes, dresses her when he dresses, tucks her in when he is tucked in, and holds her hand together to pray when we pray. He makes for a very attentive daddy, despite his disabilities…

love

The lessons I learned from these who we might label as weak or incapable, were much larger than any lesson I myself could have taught.

The lessons being that

1.) It’s not up to us to judge what’s appropriate;

2.) You never know how something will affect or transform or touch another person; and

3.) What we consider old or outdated just may be the spark that someone else needs to embark on a brand new journey of joy.

Hey, God – thank You for an unimaginable 2014 and for the wonder that 2015 brings. Thank You for the blessings you brought, and for the unknown surprises You will bring us this year.

God, help us to have the courage to embrace things that are new – things that we didn’t see coming, things that may not match up to our idea of what’s right or appropriate or acceptable – help us to see that You operate out of the box more than any of us ever could.

Help us to be tolerant of new horizons, to be flexible and to face all things NEW without judgment, without fear and with curiosity and reverence, knowing that You just might be behind those things You have in store for us – that they are all part of the journey that hopefully brings us closer to You.

Two Resolutions

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, I challenge you to make a different kind of resolution, in addition to the one you might plan to make for yourself.

When we resolve to do something, it is usually to make a difference in our life – lose weight, cut back on something, save money, pursue something on the bucket list.

Our resolutions typically have to do with finding a way to improve OUR life.

Since changing the world starts with us, I am not suggesting you give up your resolution for yourself.

Rather, I challenge you to make TWO resolutions – one for yourself AND one for someone else.

Why not resolve to make a difference in somebody else’s life, too? Perhaps it’s someone who can’t do something for themselves, someone who needs help, someone who needs a friend, someone who can’t get out or someone who otherwise would go without.

Volunteer. Donate. Lend a hand. Pitch in somehow. Resolve to make an ongoing difference for somebody.

(Caveat: Give without conditions – give freely without strings attached – even strings of disappointment if your gifts seem at the time to be unused, underappreciated or unacknowledged – the point is to give)

If you can spend the time to better your life, you probably have the time to better somebody else’s.

My challenge to you: see how much more fulfilling a resolution is when you make it for somebody else.

What ideas do you have? Where might you take this challenge? Have you done this before, and if so, what was it like?

What will it feel like to make a difference in the world outside of your own self-improvement?

Here at the beach, we see a lot of yellow, mostly in the form of the sun and its magnificent reflections in the sky.

For this week’s Photo Challenge, I’d like to share a few splashes of yellow I recently enjoyed:

OB Sunrise

Yellow sunrise at Orange Beach

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Hibiscus, bright yellow like the sun

Bayway Sunset

Yellow sunset over bay

Thank You, God, for sunrises and sunsets, for seasons of change.

Thanks for the rhythm of time and the brilliant colors You infuse into those rhythms.

So many possibilities with this week’s Photo Challenge

I had to go with the abandoned Sand Island light house, built in 1873.

Except the abandonment is not the focal point of the photo: the missing ISLAND is gone, but not forgotten.

Where did it go?

It wasn’t always a pile of rocks…

Sand Island Lighthouse

Once upon a time, Sand Island was home to a herd of grazing cows around the lighthouse. It was a barrier island to a barrier island.

But, like all things that fall prey to time, commercial progress and the elements, it gradually eroded thanks to the creation of the shipping channel in nearby Mobile Bay. Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005) further took their toll.

They tried to resurrect it by restoring the sand in the last decade. We used to be able to walk out to it from Dauphin Island, Alabama. Hiking out there, we could fish, dive, snorkel, and camp overnight. But alas, Hurricane Isaac in 2012 swept it completely away overnight.

Now it is only accessible by boat and has earned a spot on the Light House Digest Doomsday List.

Sand Island may be gone, but will not be forgotten.

Thanks, God, for both precious memories and hope, for allowing us to reminisce and also to accept change.

Thank You for having us build our hope on steadfast Rock.

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