The gift of dreaming

“If God cares about us and delights in us and therefore cares about the things we care about as a Father cares for the joy in His children, then we can exhale…He put the very ability to long in my soul. He gave me the gift of dreaming so I could have vision in this life.”–Sarah Mae, Longing for Paris

woman on beach
woman on beach

Summer is in full swing here in Missouri, with 3-digit temps some days, making even my husband Ray who hates snow long for cooler days. I look longingly at my friends’ beach pics on Facebook, their pretty painted toenails in the sand. The beach is my place of peace and refilling, and I miss and crave it in my soul.

When I was a child, every summer our family took vacations at the beach in Florida. My home town of Valdosta, GA, is about the last stop you can make in Georgia before you see that “Welcome to Florida” sign.

Several times we went to the idyllic Jekyll Island in Georgia, as my dad’s Civitan Club conventions were held there. But we also tried other beaches in Florida, such as Daytona and Panama City, where the current is so strong that you feel as if you’re going to be sucked right under the surface of the waves and carried out to sea, forever lost.

purple sky and ocean
Ocean

At the beach, my usually reserved father, a workaholic in his home business as a CPA, finally relaxed. He’d drink some beers, looking out on the ocean at night under the moonlight, and he’d actually laugh–a rare event. And when he relaxed and laughed, my mother–an overweight, stressed-out, usually screaming woman on the verge of madness–would laugh, too, and they might even hold hands on the patio. One time we kids actually saw them kiss, and I was shocked as they never did this at home in front of us. We all giggled. 

During the day, we’d head for the beach, my mother making us slather our bodies with sunscreen, and my older brother Greg yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!” as he dove with exuberance in the waves. One year on the beach, Greg got stung on the foot by a jellyfish; they seemed to be everywhere in the water and on shore that year. While the sting was painful, he recovered and was okay.

jellyfish Image source: Pinterest-gacpr.com
jellyfish
Image source: Pinterest-gacpr.com

Another year, we thought that Greg had drowned to death, as the strong current and a giant wave suddenly snatched him underneath the sinister surface. I recall the frightened calls of my parents, “Greg! Greg!”, as they frantically searched for him, and suddenly he reappeared out of the ocean like a Loch Ness monster, looking larger than life, but red-eyed and sputtering salty water. Thank God he was alive!

It wasn’t the only time that God spared his life. Years later, he was hit by a drunk driver when Greg was riding a motorcycle. He was in a coma for days, doctors unsure if he would ever wake up and not knowing the extent of any brain or internal injuries. 

Motorcycle accident
Image source: Google

When Greg was in the coma, it was one of the few times in my life that I remember my dad, a strong, prideful, independent man, ever crying. I was at our high school’s prom when the accident happened; or at least, I was supposed to be there. My boyfriend and I were doing what was called “parking” back then, in a dark driveway by the town’s football field, when my boyfriend’s dad drove past us and spotted his son’s car. He’d been driving all over town to find us, to let me know about Greg’s critical accident; my parents had called him to find my whereabouts when I wasn’t at the high school.

Remembering his own high school days, he had a hunch what we might be doing, and found us just by a fluke. Imagine our surprise when he parked on the side of the road, got out of his car, and tapped loudly on the car window, interrupting us!

When he told me that my brother had been critically injured in a car accident, we rushed to the hospital. As I walked frightened into the ICU room, my father was furious with me, demanding to know where I’d been instead of at the prom. At the moment, my “activities” with my boyfriend (which were innocent enough as we’d only been kissing) seemed to be more important to him than my brother laying on his possible deathbed.

IV needle Image source: Google
IV needle
Image source: Google

But then the doctor came in, and my father’s and my mother’s attention turned back to him and their oldest son, Greg. I stared in shock at my pale brother, with whom I was close friends back then. He was hooked up to a lot of machines that blinked and beeped ominously, the IV needle stuck in his vein and the fluids flowing into his limp body. Yet he looked peaceful and asleep. 

My brother Greg (middle), with his beautiful Russian wife (left) and my sister Maria (right)
My brother Greg (middle), with his beautiful Russian wife Ilona (left) and my sister Maria (right)

Miraculously, Greg awoke several days later from the coma, his life spared and although he was shaken, he was fine. He sued the drunk driver, and they settled in court for thousands of dollars. Today he is a successful business man, married to a beautiful woman from Russia with a grown stepson, and is a Presbyterian minister, preaching the gospel of Christ. God protected and saved him for a glorious purpose. 

But I digress…back to the beach vacation days! I’d walk on the wet shore, collecting sea shells to take home, wanting to forever preserve the memory of the beach. Why couldn’t we just stay here? I loved the beauty of the ocean and the sunset, smelling the salt in the air, and hearing the waves as I lay on a towel, warm sand on my feet.

At night, I slept restfully because we kids had played hard, delighted to wake up to the sound of the ocean the next morning and anticipating more fun swimming in it that day after breakfast. By lunch we were famished. Mama usually brought groceries on the trip so that we could save money, and we’d devour our sandwiches and chips. It was hard to wait the hour following lunch; mama claimed we’d “get cramps” if we swam too soon after eating. 

Daddy would usually take us out to eat at one nice seafood restaurant during the vacation, the highlight of the trip for my mother, as well as her being able to swim in the ocean. She had been an excellent swimmer in high school and swam effortlessly as a mermaid in the water.

Mermaid Image source: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-mermaids-realI
Mermaid
Image source: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-mermaids-real

Mama seemed to feel young and sexy again in her one-piece swimsuit, diving under the waves, and letting her greatly freckled skin dry in the sun–but not too long, as she and us kids seemed to burn so easily. We’d usually get burned anyway, and mama would rub Noxema or something to cool down our skin. The fun seemed so worth it!

Never stop dreaming

My dad and my sister Maria had olive complexions and would get dark, and I’d be envious of her, walking around in her itty-bitty bikini, sporting her new tan. But nothing could take away my happiness completely, because we were at the beach, our once a year, only, fun vacation. The stuff dreams are made of.

I’m reading a book right now by Sarah Mae called Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure–Right Where She Is. She’s a wife and a busy mom of young kids; Sarah dreams of traveling to Paris. Me, too–and of every continent!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”–Susan Sontag

Sarah Mae still hasn’t gone to Paris, even after writing this book! I confess that I am frustrated about this. The reasons are never really clear–the expense? Because she has kids and we all know that moms can’t travel to exotic places? Who really knows why?–but I understand. I’d be traveling all over the world to many nations right now if only I had the money to do so!

Traveling woman Image source: Google
Traveling woman
Image source: Google

Still, what is stopping me from saving every single dime until we have enough money for me (and/or my husband and our kids) to go where we want? 

Sarah writes:

“We give our dreams and longings to God, trusting Him to do as He pleases, knowing He cares about us, our growth, and our total trust in Him…We recognize our longings are in us for a deeper purpose.”

“Use your imagination…go on, close your eyes and dream. What would you do if you could go to Paris (or another place that calls to your heart)? What would you want to see?”

 

I’ve actually been to Paris…twice. Once in high school with my French teacher and our class. It was the first time I’d ever tried champagne or any alcohol, and I confess that I got drunk with my classmates, because I didn’t realize how potent alcohol was! My French teacher, Mrs. Gandy, threatened to kill me if I told my mother and father. To this day, I hardly ever drink, except a glass of sweet, red wine over dinner with Ray once in a blue moon.

I was enthralled with the Eiffel Tower (it’s beautiful, fascinating, and so tall!), the gorgeous art in Le Louvre musem (especially the Mona Lisa; I stared for an hour at her), and I loved dipping the French bread into hot chocolate in the morning!

Eiffel Tower Image source: https://viralrang.com/5-reasons-visit-eiffel-tower/
Eiffel Tower
Image source: https://viralrang.com/5-reasons-visit-eiffel-tower/

And once, speed forward years, I went to Paris again on Ray’s and my 10th wedding anniversary trip. We traveled there briefly by train when we flew to Europe, renting a car and driving all over Switzerland.

We stopped for a couple of days in Italy, France, and an unheard of place called Lichtenstein, which borders Switzerland and Austria. There at a beautiful castle on a high hill, I boldly and secretly buried a piece of paper with a Scripture in the ground, proclaiming the word over the area.

Ray said we couldn’t walk around inside, since it didn’t look open to the public. (We found out later that the Princely family lives there!) After I furtively buried the Scripture in the ground, immediately a strong wind blew through, and I realized I had probably stirred up some demonic principalities of the air! But God’s word had been prophesied over this nation!

French bread Image source: Google
French bread
Image source: Google

In Paris for the second time, I cried seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa again, and I simply couldn’t get enough French bread baked with chocolate and French cheese. In many of our pictures from this trip, you see me standing in line for chocolate bread! Sometimes I’ll buy baguettes and French cheese to recreate the feeling of being in Paris again, an idea of wishing, which Sarah Mae encourages in her book Longing for Paris.

“Grab your kids and hunt for something French! Maybe you will discover the best croissant in your town together. Or maybe it will be the best macaron. Take a side trip to the library and check out The Little Prince or Madeline or The Story of Babar–adventurous tales with a French twist.”

For me personally, it’s not enough to pretend to go to Paris, eating the Americanized version of French bread (the baguette is actually much thinner and longer) with imported French cheeseI want the real thing.

Beth Jones- Jasper National Park, Canada
Me when I traveled across Canadian Rockies by train Jasper Park, Canada

I want to truly travel abroad all over the world! I believe dreaming is a gift from God and He wants to give us the desires of our hearts, just like we as parents want to make our own children happy and laughing.

I believe it’s important to never give up your dreams and to go for them, as much as possible. God can miraculously make the way for them to become true!

woman in bonjour shirt
Woman in Bonjour shirt & skirt

Sarah writes, “When my son draws me a picture, he is so excited to give it to me, not just so that I can see his talent, but because he loves me and wants me to take pleasure in it. This is what God does with us; He wants us to take pleasure in the beauty He’s made and in the gifts He endows us with.”

Never stop dreaming; never give up. Be the girl (or guy) who goes for it!

Woman with camera
Woman with camera

What is your big dream? Remember that NOTHING is impossible with God? To be encouraged to go for it, check out my book, The Cinderella Story: The Power of Dreams, at Amazon, by clicking here.

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Do you garden? I started a flower garden.

garden

Do you garden–flowers, plants, or produce? My grandmother Moore always had a “green thumb” and could grow anything. This year I’ve started my own little garden here at our new home!

I’ve never had very good “luck” with flowers and plants, so this is an exercise of faith. I’m quickly finding out that gardening is hard, hot work! It’s been in the 90’s here in Missouri where I live, and I’ve just been dripping and so sore afterward…feeling the work in every muscle that I haven’t been using! Below are pics of my arm and leg, after I had washed them off some!

my arm
my arm
my leg
my leg

First I got a vision for what I wanted in my mind. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18, KJV, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” I knew that I wanted big yellow rose bushes in the area by the patio and brightly colored annuals, with at least one butterfly bush to draw butterflies, in the area by our garage.

Then for a couple of days, I took off in the car, hitting several nurseries and garden places like Suburban Lawn & Garden in Martin City, MO and Lowe’s in Belton, MO, buying supplies: green bamboo garden gloves, a cheery, bright yellow watering can for my flowers (love it!), rose food, mulch, flowers, and stones for a border. Ray and I already had a shovel, big and little rakes, and a hoe. 

Rose food, green bamboo garden gloves, and friendly, bright yellow watering can
Rose food, green bamboo garden gloves, and friendly, bright yellow watering can

Just for fun, I tried on a purple hat at Suburban Lawn & Garden and posted the pic on Facebook, “Do I look like a gardener, lol?” I actually got several compliments from it. I didn’t buy it, but maybe I should have!

me trying on purple gardening hat, just for fun
me trying on purple gardening hat, just for fun

Prepare first

Before buying the supplies, though, I started preparing my flower gardens with the area by the patio, which had lots of weeds. One of my friends on Facebook told me these particular weeds are called “Creeping Charlie” which is everywhere, but can be used for teas and medicines. She said it could be easily pulled or mowed.

I used a hoe and a rake to clear this specific area of grass and stones, which took a long time. But I found the Creeping Charlie weeds to be easier to pull with my hands than with a tool.

“I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.” ~ Martha Smith

Creeping Charlie weed by patio area
Creeping Charlie weed by patio area

My Facebook friend Rose, who has rose and flower gardens and works every day in her yard, advised me to lay down cardboard boxes flat on top of the dirt because it’s biodegradable and seems to work better than the landscape fabrics. I cut out round holes for the place where I’d plant the three rose bushes. This is more work than it seems, or maybe I needed sharper scissors!

cardboard
cardboard

Rose said then cover it with bark mulch as it helps to retain moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds, keeps the soil cool, and makes the garden bed look more attractive. I googled online first, and then went shopping with our daughter Leah at Lowe’s for the mulch.

Our beautiful youngest daughter Leah
Our beautiful youngest daughter Leah

Leah is an amazing, self-taught artist and I sought her opinion on the mulch color before buying it. She and I agreed that red would probably look best. I didn’t really like the color of the bark mulch (a black-brown).

red mulch
red mulch

After shopping several places, I found my big yellow rose shrubs at Lowe’s. One of my favorite lines in the movie Sweet Dreams about country singer Patsy Cline, starring Jessica Lange, is when she said, “Please help me get my house with the yellow roses!”

I told our daughter Heather and my sister Maria, who had seen the movie with me the first time, “I finally did it! I got my house with the yellow roses!” I think they look so pretty and love them! Now if only I can keep them alive and thriving!

yellow roses
yellow roses

Initially I bought small, square ceramic stones for a border around the yellow roses, but I wasn’t satisfied with the way it looked. I saw some boulder rocks from Colorado at Suburban Lawn & Garden in Martin City, and bought them.

To my surprise they were only 19 cents a pound–much cheaper than the flowers! I LOVE the way it looks now, a much more natural look! I bought one of the boulders called “Royal Gorge” because I liked the name and the pretty silver in it. They had some huge ones, that I’d like to go back and buy for a separate “rock garden” one day.

Royal Gourge boulders from Colorado
Royal Gourge boulders from Colorado
boulder rocks around roses' garden
boulder rocks around roses’ garden

Next I worked on the area by our garage. This area gets only partial sun. I asked the opinion of my gardener friends on Facebook and the clerk who worked at the Mennonite shop in town about what flowers to get, since it doesn’t receive full sun.

A hosta plant had already been planted there before we moved here, which requires quite a bit of shade to do well, my friends told me, so I needed to take that into consideration.

hosta
hosta

I went to the Mennonite shop and bought most of my flowers there: waterfall color petunias (purple, white, pink, and “Dreams” red), a Butterfly Bush which draws butterflies, some pretty little purple flowers (not sure of the name, but they are perennials, the clerk said), and purple Veronica flowers.

Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Dreams Red petunias
Dreams Red petunias
purple petunias
purple petunias
little purple perennials
little purple perennials
my pretty flower garden
my pretty flower garden

I also bought a Pink Phlox shrub, from Suburban Lawn & Garden which is supposed to draw butterflies to your garden and adds a nice, vibrant splash of color, and the next day I bought a White Althea shrub to plant on the other side of the rose garden.

Pink Phlox that draws butterflies
Pink Phlox that draws butterflies
White Althea shrub
White Althea shrub
Althea flower
Althea flower

My husband Ray suggested that I buy a purple rose in the rose garden, when I asked him what he thought I plant last. Ray was raised in the Tyler, Texas area which is the rose capitol; about 20% of commercial rose bushes in the U.S. are grown in Tyler and Smith County. The Texas Rose festival draws more than 10,000 people every year. 

When I get an idea in my head, I can’t let it go. I went to four or five nurseries and places hunting down a purple rose shrub, and nobody had one! One clerk told me they are rare (at least in this area).

After wearing myself out in the sweltering 90+F degree heat, I texted Ray I couldn’t find one. He told me to come home and order it online, because I was “getting cranky.” I texted back, “Too late, I’m already cranky!”

He knew he was in trouble then. I told him do not even ask me what is for supper when I came home, as I was not cooking over a hot stove! (You can learn more about our stormy marriage in my book, Stained Glass & Marriage, available for sale at Amazon.)

I did find the perfect purple rose shrub online from Heirloom Roses called Midnight Blue, which one of the nursery owners told me about and can’t wait for it to arrive. The rose is a velvet purple rose, with a spice clove fragrance. I’ll then be finished with my gardens–unless I get more wild ideas!

Midnight Blue rose Image source: https://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/D/D/DD82C82F083C00B4375D2D0A0890CE7B.jpg
Midnight Blue rose
Image source: https://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/D/D/DD82C82F083C00B4375D2D0A0890CE7B.jpg

I can’t wait for it to arrive to plant. I’m praying and have been asking friends and family to pray over my gardens, as this is a first for me and all very new. Please pray my flowers will live and thrive!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” ~ Luther Burbank

What do you garden? How has your gardening experiences been? Leave your comments below. I’ll be be blogging more about gardening in the weeks to come.

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Create beauty each day

A pretty breakfast setting
My pretty breakfast setting this morning

“My mother created a beautiful home environment, which helped me to learn how to see and how to live. Writers have to find their own voices. I had to learn how to see. Mother’s innate aesthetic sense affected everything she did. When I think back to the meals we ate together as a family, I remember the fresh flowers on the table, the food attractively arranged on the plate and planned partly with color in mind. To Mother, truth was beauty lived every day. Not only did Mother did me to appreciate beauty by her example, she also taught me an invaluable lesson–the importance of creating beauty each day, and how to do it.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard, Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life

I love beautiful things. In fact, unexpectedly someone told me today that my Facebook posts sometimes remind her of Anne Ortlund, author of Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. I was shocked, as she was a great woman of God, and her husband Ray was a great man of God. What a huge compliment!

I believe that it’s so important to notice and surround ourselves with beauty every day. A vase of fresh flowers. Fragrant candles or Scentsy warmers. Pretty paintings. Strawberries in a bowl on the kitchen counter. A crystal glass of your fave drink. A hand-made quilt and freshly washed sheets on your bed with fluffy pillows.

A cute coffee mug (maybe with some chocolate!). Lavender bath salts and unique scented shower gels like honeysuckle and jasmine in the bathroom. Soft pillows on couches and loveseats. Happy family photos. A friendly welcome mat at your front or back door and invite friends over and order pizza (or enjoy Ray’s infamous, mouth-watering Cajun chicken on the grill!). 

dolphin Image source: http://www.defenders.org/
dolphin
Image source: http://www.defenders.org/

When you look at creation, you can see that God loves beauty, too. A bright red male cardinal. The moon and stars shining luminously. The glorious rays of the sun. The sound and beauty of the amazing ocean waves, on glistening white sands and the wind blowing through the palm trees. Majestic blue, snow-capped mountains. Orange desert cactus blooming. Sunrises and sunsets, each one different and breath-taking. Dolphins, sharks, stingrays, lions, tigers, black panthers, elephants, zebra, giraffe, kangaroo, wolves, butterflies, kittens, puppies, all that has been created by God with a word.

The Bible tells us to focus on what’s beautiful. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~ Philippians 4:8, KJV

Image resource: Pinterest-woman and coffee
beautiful woman writing with coffee
Image resource: Pinterest

God sees you and me as beautiful. In Song of Solomon 2:14, NLT, it says, “My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.”

Our enemy Satan does all he can to mar our beauty and the beauty of this world. From pollution on this earth to pollution in our souls, the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10)

He wants our marriages, families, physical bodies, homes, environment, work places, walk with Christ, and attitudes as ugly as possible. He is the author of lies, confusion, and destruction. I was about to Skype my sweet friend last night, when she texted me. “Hold on. Coming. We are having chaos.” In the other room of her house, there were shouting and angry words between her husband and her son. 

happy couple
happy couple

The enemy never stops. He won’t until he’s burning in the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:10) Because he’s so relentless, we as believers in Christ need to do all we can to display God’s beauty and create it in our lives. 

  • We can be beautiful women of God by obeying and serving Him with our time, our resources (such as money, our work, or other physical resources), our spiritual gifts and our lives. As we spend more time with Jesus each day, we become more like Him, by God conforming us into His image. (Romans 8:29)
  • We can bring beauty to our relationships by loving and forgiving others, encouraging them daily, and helping them. Each day we can wipe the slate clean. God’s mercies are new each morning. (Lamentations 3:23)
  • We can make our homes beautiful, a place of safe refuge and comfort, by keeping it clean, organized, and beautifully decorated with the resources we have“I suddenly realized that God’s beautiful Proverbs 31 woman was the sparkling jewel in her husband’s life! She brought the love, the color, the joy, the life, and the energy to the home!” (Elizabeth George, Beautiful in God’s Eyes)
  • We can have an impact on this world and make it beautiful by sharing the good news of Jesus and our powerful testimony. Tell your story with others. Allow God’s anointing to flow through you as an open conduit of His power. (1 John 2:27)
  • We can have a beautiful attitude by being positive and faith-filled, instead of being negative, complaining, criticizing, or being ungrateful. (Philippians 2:14) Ask God to heal any wound in your heart that prevents your utmost, inner beauty from shining forth. 
  • We can visit beautiful places, traveling to new towns, states, and nations, eating new foods, meeting new people, and making new, beautiful memories that last a lifetime. 
  • We can leave a beautiful legacy with our children and grandchildren by fulfilling the calling and purpose God has assigned for our lives, and by showing them Jesus through our godly example.

I want to be a beautiful woman, inside and out, and to surround myself with beauty, don’t you? 

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” ~ 1 Peter 3:3-4, NIV

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Promises In The Dark: One Woman's Search for Authentic Love

You can read how God made beauty out of the ashes of my life in my memoir, Promises In The Dark: One Woman’s Search for Authentic Love. Click here to find out more. 

 

 

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