Happy April!

How suddenly the winter retreats peacefully into the shadows, places where the snow lingers a little longer and the chill hovers, while springtime appears with vigor and color and sweetness. Everywhere, new life is appearing. Tiny calves speckle the pastures, birds are singing lustily, and branches and twigs are showing green. Underfoot, flower life is waking, spreading their petals to the sunlight, drinking in the rain, little gems in the layers of pine needles and dead grass. First is the pasque, and then the rest follow.
IMG_5006eI’m reminded of these verses from Song of Solomon:

The flowers appear in the earth: the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

The signs of spring are plainly written. We smell the clean, rain-washed air, hear the droplets pattering on the roof, feel them on our faces, hear the birds singing in the trees. We have the pasque flowers on the sunlit hills. Flocks of sandhill cranes in the sky mark the beginning of April, a new sight for me. Spring is here.

Happy April!

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Christ in His Beauty

The human soul is drawn to beauty. We crave it. We hunger for it. A quick look through history will evidence how humanity has constantly been on a quest for beauty and all that it encompasses. I’ve heard it said that the standard of beauty has changed over the centuries. But this simply isn’t true. God is the creator of all that is good and beautiful. He Himself is the standard of beauty. God doesn’t change. So the standard of beauty has never changed.  It is people who have changed, and naturally there is some confusion. What is beauty?
IMG_1291Beautiful is that which is good, that which is undefiled, that which is pure. Beautiful is that which gives evidence to God’s created order. Beautiful is that which gives evidence to God’s love and care. Beautiful is that which gives evidence to God’s power and His might. Beautiful is that which points to God’s knowledge and wisdom. Beautiful is that which honors God.
IMG_1281The Psalmist wrote: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) One day, those who have trusted Christ as their Savior will stand face-to-face with the Standard and Creator of beauty, and we will be completely overwhelmed with fear and joy.  “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.” (Isaiah 33:17) What a day that will be!
IMG_1270Every time I go on a hike, or take a drive through the Hills, I am confronted with the beauty of the LORD. Some days, I am more sensitive to it than others, more aware or willing to wonder. He draws my eye to those things of beauty that He has showered through His world, and my heart aches. I am struck by the beauty of the LORD, the glory of His creation, the love He has lavished on us in giving us so beautiful a world to live in, to taste, to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, or in giving us senses at all. Everything we see, including the fact that there is even such a concept as beauty, is evidence of Someone who is greater than I am, evidence that Someone instilled in each human the knowledge of a Creator God. We can suppress that knowledge. We can deny it. But that knowledge is there. IMG_1298Over the last year or so, ever since arriving in the Black Hills and beginning to attend church in Custer, I’ve been learning more and more about God’s sovereignty, even over the little things. I think as Christians we often forget the little things, even though it is those little things that are so often present for us to enjoy, reminding us of the goodness of our Savior. If every good and perfect gift really is from God, and if God truly is the standard of beauty, then those delights I enjoy while marveling at the sunlight caught in flower petals or the shimmering gold of early yellow leaves or the spots on a fawn, then those delights are gifts from the loving hand of God. If something draws my mind to Jesus Christ, then that is a gift and should be cherished. IMG_1279For the Christian, we should set our minds on those things that glorify God, those things that cause us to consider Him. We should cultivate eyes that see His beauty, a heart that yearns for His beauty, and lips that speak of it. Philippians 4:8 commands: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

How many ills in the Christian life would be cured, simply by reveling in and cherishing our glimpses of the King in His beauty!

Laura Elizabeth

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Botanical | Harebells

Back in the early 1900s, there was a watercolor artist named Cicely Mary Barker, a contemporary of Beatrix Potter and published by the same publishers who worked with Miss Potter, who wrote poetry and painted pictures of “flower fairies.” I remember poring over a volume of her poetry and exquisite paintings in my piano teacher’s house, during my sister Jessica’s piano lessons. Each of Cicely’s fairies personified a specific flower, and the Harebell Fairy comes to mind with clarity: standing on tip-toe, dressed in a gown that resembles the cup of the harebell, holding a slender stem in her hand with the blossom swaying over her head.Perhaps that book of Flower Fairies is where some of my love of wildflowers comes from. About six years ago, I found a bargain priced set of Cicely’s books (the complete poetry and paintings, I believe), hard-bound and beautifully printed. It took about two minutes to decide to add them to my library.HarebellThe harebell has to be one of my favorite summer flowers. I found this little cluster up in a meadow on the eastern side of the property.

Laura Elizabeth

 

Botanical | Coneflower Color Morphs

Prairie coneflowers are a common sight this time of year in meadows and along roadsides. Cheery yellow blossoms with a green and brown cone center grace the Hills abundantly. They’re humble little flowers, and an indication that summer is indeed here!
Prairie ConeflowerAbout a week and a half ago, however, I noticed a strange one blooming up near our mailbox along Highway 40 – Instead of sunny yellow, the petals were daubed with a beautiful crimson. Since first noticing the single mutant flower, the rest of the plant has flowered, producing more color morph flowers! What a fun find. When it re-seeds or the plant comes back next summer, I wonder if the color variation will still be present!
Coneflower Color MorphEven “accidents” in God’s Creation can be so beautiful!

Laura Elizabeth

Botanical | Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed susans and milkweed mean that summer is here! Spotted these on the shores of Lakota Lake this afternoon.UntitledThe first of the summer season.

Laura Elizabeth

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Happiness is…

To each his own, of course. Some prefer the bustle (chaos) of city living, or even the quiet bustle of town life. Some prefer the opportunities that come with living in the city, the close grocery stores, coffee shops, entertainment, the arts, etc. Some would be bored by what I consider to be the perfect pace of living. I recently had someone ask me what I do for fun. I kind of realized that just about all I do for fun is hiking. That, and photography and writing. I suppose some would be extremely bored by this.
Chives in the GardenThe Hills are in a state of perfection at sunset. Kashka followed me around as I snapped pictures of the cattle that Jack brought out for the summer, of the glowing poppies finally blooming in the overgrown garden, and of the chives which were neglected and left to head out. We’ve had a busy spring, and the garden unfortunately doesn’t weed or plant or prune itself.
Bully BoyThe cows contentedly grazed and watched me back as I watched them, and one of the cows headed straight towards me, like she wanted to say hello.  The little bull calves, like this one, were skittish but curious. The cows are in the pasture closest to the cabin, so we can hear them calling to each other, and can smell the warm, sweet odor, which I love.
Poppies at SunsetThe Kashka-Cat is a darling. She loves to be underfoot, in the way, and around “her people.” She and Luna make themselves scarce when we have company, but she and her brother are quite the life of the party when it is just the family. I worked on my Bible reading in the Miner’s Cabin before I went to get Anna from work and, true to form, Kashka roamed around the cabin for a good little while, finally ending up on the sofa with me. There is nothing quite like the company of a cat.
IMG_4153Happiness is a cabin, a camera, and the company of a cat. Perfection.

Laura Elizabeth