Coming Alive Again

It’s a crazy mixed up world we live in.  All you have to do is turn on the news to realize that.  Then there’s our own personal challenges added to the mix.  And…well…that can make us feel overwhelmed.  But there’s still beauty to be found in the middle of the broken.  My camera helps me seek and find it.  I’d like to share another poem that I wrote, several years ago, that was just published.  Go figure…just published after all these years!  Another surprise for me.  I thought I better hurry up and post this since spring is going to shift into summer soon…

Coming Alive Again

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In spring there’s a freshness

and a beauty unfolds,

all that was sleeping

awakens for us to behold.

daisies

There’s a sigh of relief

that winter has ended,

even the birds are aware

of all that is splendid.

woody

Woodland animals awaken,

peeking out their faces

slowly at the beginning,

from their resting places.

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Everything comes alive

like a rebirth,

a sense of anticipation

fills the whole earth.

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Dormant flowers rise up

to feel the sun’s warmth,

brown grass turns green

and color comes forth.

colors of spring

Gray skies become blue,

clouds look like marshmallows,

a tapestry on the ground

that is no longer fallow.

clouds

A colorful picture

and a marvelous sight —

when the world around us

is no longer black and white.

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Written by:  Nancy Janiga

All photos taken by: ©Nancy Janiga

When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

BE.YOU.TIFUL

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Like a carnival barker the woman summoned me to the store entrance.  I glanced in her direction as she held out a sample of moisturizer explaining, “We’re sharing a few of our skin care products today.”  I hesitated.  She continued, “It’s free.”  I thought, Oh what the heck.  I took the small foil pack, thanked her and turned to walk away.

“Wait, I have one more thing for you.  It’s a sample of our non-surgical eye lift serum.”  “No thank you,”  I responded.

Before I knew it I left my husband, Bob, standing in the mall and I was sitting in a chair facing a mirror.  How did this happen?  I never fall for this sort of thing, I thought.

But there I was in a spa–as she called it–at the mall getting a trial non-surgical eye lift from the carnival (like) barker.  Her name was Lily.  As Lily applied the potions, I kept telling her, “I’m not purchasing anything.”

All of a sudden Bob appeared with a look on his face that said, “For real?”  I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.  “No no, don’t smile, don’t move,”  Lily commanded.  I sat up straight, threw my shoulders back and froze to attention.

She applied a gel substance under my eyes, smoothed it, fanned my face with a piece of paper and explained to me that the routine would have to be done a couple of times a week.  She added that I should notice amazing results in just a few applications.

“There,” she swung my chair toward Bob.  “What do you think?  This is just one treatment and look how amazing she looks.  Imagine what this will do with long-term applications?  This is like Botox in a bottle at an affordable price.”

Bob studied my face, nods and says,  “Yes, she looks great.  I see the difference.”

I started to say, “Really?”  But Lily stopped me at ‘real’ and instructed me not to move the muscles around my eyes.   She said, “Like Botox, it’s working on relaxing all your muscles.”  I looked in the mirror.  The skin around my eyes did appear smooth but only if I didn’t move any part of my face.

Lily offers Bob the same treatment stating that men use it too.  Bob declines saying, “I don’t need it.”   That’s when I thought, Hmm…but I do?

Lily informs me of the cost of Botox and then shares the price of the eye treatment indicating how affordable it would be.

Bob’s stunned look and my squirming to get out of the chair must have signaled to Lily that we were done.  She whipped out a cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliate scrub and said that the package was worth over $800.00 but for that day she’d give it to us for the price of the eye lift serum which was $400.00.

“We’re hungry, it’s time for lunch,”  I looked toward Bob and we start to leave.

Lily throws in a nail care package thinking that would seal the deal.

As we head for the exit, Lily follows us waving her business card and I see two women purchasing the products from another carnival (like) barker.  Now we’re really stunned.

Bob and I break free and make a run for the nearest restaurant.  On our way, I must have made some facial expressions, because I caught a glimpse of myself in the lady’s room mirror at the restaurant.  I leaned in closer and saw dried gel serum crackling in the lines around my eyes making me appear to have double the wrinkles.  Then I noticed flaking white stuff hanging from my skin.

I threw on some sun glasses.  We ate and ended up at Starbucks after lunch to talk about the experience and to search for reviews on our phones.

Never mind the reviews on the products.  I have to review the truth.

The truth is simple–we live in a culture caught up with outward appearance.  Aging is viewed as something to be ashamed of.  We can’t run from the anti-aging messages.  They’re all around us–telling us to tweak this, tuck that, shift this, improve that.  Anti-aging.  It insinuates that we have to be against aging and something must be done about it.  Stat!

Today I’m reviewing the real truth.  It’s found all through God’s word and it reveals what He thinks about us.  He knows we’re flawed.  He sees the creases, outwardly and inwardly and He loves us anyway, but he’s more concerned about our inward flaws.  Those are the flaws that nobody else can see but I’m reminded that they get shed slowly over time.  Those of us who are Christians are works in progress.

  • Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, 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)
  • Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Being renewed day by day means that our inner glow gets brighter the more we grow in our faith.  No matter what our circumstances are, or what our age is, we will radiate outwardly what is happening inwardly and that’s true beauty.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2015

Amen to Wonder

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Years ago when my husband and I moved out of a large city and bought a house on a wooded 10 acre piece of property, my parents would escape from city life, several times a year, to spend weekends with us.  And once a year my mother would come by herself and stay for a week.  She called it her R&R.

We did a lot of hiking through those acres of woods and far beyond.

My mother saw beauty in everything.  Especially nature.  Everywhere we walked she seemed to be soaking it all in.  Those visits, the walks, the talks, inspired a deeper appreciation for nature in me.  Without her keen eye, I don’t think I would have picked up the extraordinary beauty in those ordinary places.

It was like she was inhaling the glory of God.  Everything held wonder for her.

As far back as I can remember, sunsets, the mountains, the valleys, every plant, flower and bird were a means to give acknowledgement to God.  When my sister, Judy, lived in Arizona my mother would return from trips to her house describing the majesty of God revealed in every mountain top.  There was a bursting forth from somewhere deep within her soul, like a release, at the beauty of it all.

When I was a child, even through my teenage years, I dismissed her sense of wonder and awe as a ‘mom thing’ and didn’t enter into it fully with her.  In my adulthood, I began to understand.

She could appreciate the created fully, because she grasped the deep love of the creator.

This past summer, while walking through an art gallery my husband and I spotted a piece of art that we were both drawn to.  We studied the painting, the colors, the depth, we envisioned it in our living room but left the gallery without it.

On another visit to the same gallery, the artist who painted the piece was there.  We talked to her and we began to see more deeply into it as she described the process, what inspired her to paint it, the methods she used and what she named it.

She remarked that her paintings aren’t complete until they are enjoyed, looked at with wonder, awe and eventually find a home.

That particular painting found a home.  Our home.  After spending time getting to know the artist, the appreciation for her painting grew deeper for us.

As my faith in God deepens, the more I get to know His love for all that he has created–especially His love for us–the more my eyes are opened to the beauty surrounding me.  I see creation through different eyes and I’m more able to savor the moments.

God gives us moments of wonder.  He has painted a world that many artists have tried to replicate but none can compare to the real deal that surrounds us everyday.

The long walks through the countryside with my mother–her naming the plants, pointing out the wild basil–picking it–rubbing it between her fingers to release its aroma–saying to me, “Here smell this, Nancy.”  Ah…she soaked in the moments and the wonder of everything.

God could have created the world in black and white but He chose to wash it with color.  Even in the depth of winter–when everything can look black, white and dull–He creates splashes of color for us to find.  I found it one morning on a branch in my yard.

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This year I want to say AMEN to wonder.  I want to recall the moments from the past that have inspired me and look for new ways to see the world and rejoice in the wonder.

Written by: Nancy Janiga©2015

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A Beautiful Fragrance

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Beneath the bay kitchen window, of my childhood home, there was a patch of Lily of the Valley.  Lush green leaves covered the ground and every spring their white bell-shaped flowers grew up on tiny stalks. 

Once our windows opened up, gentle breezes wafted their fragrance around our kitchen table.  All of our meals were surrounded by their sweet scent.

Playing in the front yard or just walking past the flowers I would catch a pleasant whiff. Often I’d kneel down next to the lily garden and look closely at each white bloom. I adored them.

Throughout their growing season, a small vase in our home held a bouquet.

Today, I’m still in love with the tiny beauties called Lily of the Valley.

Along the hillside in my yard they bloom. Like a cover blanketing the earth.

Each spring I wait in expectation for their arrival.  I weed and rake and glance toward them while taking care of other plantings in my yard. First the green emerges and in no time the delicate small flowers with their bold fragrance appears.

The hillside is an ideal place for them. There they are free to run wild weaving in and out of the trees and bushes.

At their first appearance, I’m ready with my shears. I clip a handful and place them in a vase.

There isn’t a scented candle or potpourri that could compare to the fragrance that fills my home from one small bouquet of Lilies. There isn’t a centerpiece that compares to the elegance it brings to my kitchen table.

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On a beautiful spring day this year, I gathered a bunch for a bouquet and placed them in a vase.

Then I went to my linen closet and pulled out an embroidered tablecloth that I recently purchased at a second-hand store.  I draped it over the table placing the vase of flowers in the center.  Instead of my everyday dishes, I pulled out a few pieces of china and stemware from a cabinet.

On special occasions, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, my china and stemware have graced my table.  In recent years, it hasn’t been pulled out much–not even for holidays.  These days everything has gotten casual–even special occasions.

But that particular day was different. My lilies were encouraging me to make a table transformation.

My husband, tired from laying hardwood floors in our living room all day, walked into the kitchen and announced that he was going to shower before dinner.

He glanced at the table and then at me with a puzzled look.

I smiled.  He smiled and walked toward the bathroom.

My unpretentious breakfast nook transformed into something elegant after placing the vase of lily of the valley in the middle of the table surrounded by china.

I reveled in the beauty.

Why couldn’t we eat our leftover pulled pork on china, I thought.  And so we did.

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After cleaning up the kitchen and putting the dishes away, one thing remained…the scent from the lilies. It remained throughout most of the house for several days.

In the midst of the often messy circumstances in life there’s still beauty around us.  Sometimes we have to look for it, be aware of it but it is there mingled with the messy.

Sometimes it’s refreshing to create beauty. Just like our creator beautifies us.

I was pretty messy when he came after me. He’s far from done with me but I’m a cleaned up version of what I once was.

If Jesus is at the center of our lives, like my lilies graced the center of my ordinary table, he will make something beautiful out of our ordinary lives.

Paul writes that followers of Jesus are the fragrance of Christ that spreads everywhere and an aroma of Christ to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

When I think of fragrance, I think of a beautiful scent. To those God is seeking it will be irresistible but to others…maybe not so much. There’s no way around that fact.  The fact is not everyone will appreciate the fragrance.

To me a beautiful fragrance isn’t judgmental, pushy, or demanding. It is pleasant, kind, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. That sort of sounds like God doesn’t it? (See Psalm 103:8)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5: 1-2)

The fragrance emanating from the lily of the valley that filled my home for several days was a good reminder of what God has done for me and what the very essence of my life should be for him.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014