Growing in Wisdom (May 5)

I remain, each year, grateful for a birthday, grateful to have lived another year in which I can grow in wisdom and understanding under the patient instruction of my Lord, grateful for another year in which I have, in some small way, been His faithful servant, to have slowly built one more year against the many years that I spent in darkness serving only myself and the enemy. It’s sobering to think that, still, at 40 years of age, I have spent less than half of my life knowing Christ and seeking to follow Him, humbling to know that He was patient to delay His coming until I came to repentance, and comforting to remember that one single moment would have been enough, if that was all I’d had!

And what a pleasant family He has graced me with for celebrating birthdays! As the children, one by one, awoke and rubbed their little eyes and shuffled out of bed, they each sang me a “Happy Birthday” serenade 🙂

We gathered around the table to start the birthday off right with hot chocolate and maple glazed donuts, and then it was time to open presents!

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What sweeties! Asher and Spencer worked together on two projects for me, both out of clay. They found the clay in our streambed, and had to actually test out a couple of different clays and methods until they got something that hardened properly. Ultimately, they made me a lidded jar, filled with marbles, which we actually played marbles with!

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Secondly, with some of the clay samples that didn’t work out, they made me a nice, crumbly “rock dig”, where I could search for hidden treasures that they had buried for me, selecting stones from their own personal collections, and cheerfully relating their tales about how they picked out “their best one” to put into my gift.

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It was a present that was made even more enjoyable by the fact that everyone could help! The only thing better than digging in the dirt is digging in the dirt with everybody!

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From Genevieve, a picture of me walking in the forest 🙂

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And from Joe, wrapped in shavings, a cookie spoon, carved with “Love”, because cookies need love just like everything else; singing hermit thrushes to represent my heart singing praises to the Lord while I work; and Proverbs 31:31, “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

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After a little bit of playtime and a leisurely lunch, it was time for birthday cake – at the beach! In lieu of a traditional cake, we picked up a nice pan of cinnamon rolls from the Downeast Amish Bakery, and transported them to the Sandy River Beach in Jonesport, where we stuck candles in them and enjoyed gooey handfuls of cinnamon goodness at the shore!

It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny, with a breeze that died down shortly after our arrival…

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…wonderful for relaxing…

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…and playing in the sand…

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…and splashing in the water…

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…and collecting pocketfuls of shells and seaglass…

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…and just general birthday delight!

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Thank you, Lord, for one more year sheltered beneath Your wings!

 

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The Joys of Spring! (May 4)

Oh, the wonderful array of little pleasures of springtime!

The birds rise so early, 4:00 or 4:30, and on the occasion of rising early ourselves, it is indescribably lovely to sit on the front doorstep and listen to the melody of the birds singing their morning praises to the God of all Creation, all throughout the misty blue beginnings of the dawning forest!

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Of course, on a Sunday, a very early morning may result in mid-day drowsiness, which, thankfully, is well-supported by a snug hammock…

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Such drowsiness may strike unexpectedly, even in the midst of a game of Solitaire…

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…and may re-strike quickly, even when one certain little princess wakes up for a moment, tells me all about how her game is going, but then succumbs to gentle afternoon dozing once more!

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The first fruits of spring are the tree blossoms, not as showy as their ground-locked brethren, but incredibly beautiful upon close inspection, and bursting forth along the waving branches of all the bare limbs, inviting and sustaining the early pollinators, and coloring the landscape gently rosy for a brief season.

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Greening is just beginning in various locations, that magical moment that seems to appear overnight, when the right number of warm and sunny days have elapsed, and all the little leaflets of a kind spring forth in unison to bathe the world in a pale mist!

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What incredible beauty, unfurling on a day of spring sunshine!

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And while sunshine is not a requirement for marvelous fungi, it can sometimes speed along some unexpected rushings of growth among these humble little caretakers of all things passing away!

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The little creeping things are moving about, like this firefly larva, so brightly polished in the sunshine, so thoroughly armored from head to toe…

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His head, in fact, retracts into his armored plate, stretching far ahead during travel, and shrinking rapidly back for protection…

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…and on the underside – surprise! – cotton-candy-pink pinstripes, accenting each symmetrical segment!

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This tiny jumping spider, high in the branches of a towering spruce, probably did not expect to have his early activities observed and catalogued so carefully by a climbing biped!

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(photo courtesy of Spencer)

And the Blue-headed Vireo must have thought we looked like strange creatures indeed, behind cameras and binoculars, following his every move and delighting in his beautiful warble!

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Farm work sometimes means treats outside, between diggings and plantings 🙂

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And playtime means climbing trees!

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It’s a big year for Genevieve, the first time she’s really been able to climb, not so high as her brothers, but climbing, nonetheless!

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The boys venture ever-higher into the Meeting Tree, the highest tree in our front yard…

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It offers quite a commanding view – Spencer took this picture to demonstrate what a tiny dot Genevieve is, in the center, down by the driveway!

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A sunny Sunday afternoon means a stroll to the stream, where the water is flowing, and the bugs are not out quite yet. Soft moss…

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…golden afternoon sunshine…

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…and mudballs!

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Just a few of the joys of spring!

 

Spring is Still Springing! (April 29)

This is springtime in lovely Maine! A magical blend of bright, new growth and lingering, sparkling slumber…Everyone keeps saying, “Spring is slow in coming this year,” and, “Winter just won’t let go this year!” But, I am convinced that this just is spring. It’s not summer. It’s not winter. It’s the lovely mixing ground in between. It’s the transition, the gentle letting-go of winter’s snows and the luxuriant awakening of summer’s sun, warm late snowfalls easing into cool early rainfalls, lengthening sunny days punctuated by fast-moving cloudy squalls, and it’s what the season is supposed to be!  

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A wondrous little combination of new green springing forth among crystal snowy remains…

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…bright buds bursting open on chilly mornings, heralding leaves and blossoms soon to come…

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…as Asher says, “We climbed the Meeting Tree and all the maples are ablaze with red flowers!”…

…delicate but hardy little plants awakening beneath diamond ice-kisses…

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…and the rushing-forth of tannin-rich waters, supplemented by frequent rains, and recently freed from icy holds!

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A favorite spot at the library looks the same no matter the season and no matter the weather…

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…but a combination of bright sun and rushing clouds and cool breezes makes outdoor activities unpredictable, and layers a requirement! The annual Smelt Fry looked as though it might be warm and sunny, but turned out cool and breezy, though no less enjoyable for a small-town outing.

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Fried smelt with all the fixings, wild blueberry ice cream, a cold beer from Airline Brewing, a walk around the displays held at the lovely historic buildings of downtown Columbia Falls on the Little River …

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…and lots to learn about the wonderful variety of local sea-run fish!

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Of course it’s spring!

God’s creatures seem to be the first to know when the last frosty evening has passed into memory…One morning, the cool, still air unfolds uneventfully into another quiet day…The next morning, like a switch, it is suddenly filled with the chorus of creatures, great and small!

The frogs are singing, and mating, and eggs are already gathering in the pond…

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Sweet Asher, seeing the eggs, and witnessing the habit of our spring, said, “What if it freezes? Can I gather up the eggs? We need to keep them warm!” I reminded him that the sweet little frogs do this every year, that the eggs are well-designed by their Creator, and that they will simply have to take their natural part in whatever this year has in store for them!

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As the afternoons warm, the chorus of frog song builds into the rhythmic harmony that will form the background of the days now, long into the evening hours…

The bugs are buzzing, stirring and flying and venturing about their early-season activities…

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And the birds, suddenly, returning from all corners of their wintering getaways, responding perhaps to the stirring of the bugs, are filling every morning with the beauty of their abundant songs of praise!

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The bright two-tone call of the chickadee, the sassy scolding of the nuthatches, the flute-like trills of the thrushes, the melodious warble of the winter wren, the gently unfolding notes of the white-throated sparrow, the sharp peep of the hairy woodpecker, the chatty greeting of the robin, the cheerful chip-chip-chip of the chipping sparrow, the peaceful coo of the mourning dove, the throaty call of the raven, the rolling drum of the grouse, and the fierce overhead cry of the broad-winged hawk fill the mornings already, but there will still be room for more songs to come as the warm weather progresses…

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How wonderful when our little, mostly unseen, but always delightfully heard, woodland neighbors return home for the season!

…and under every log, once again, the slow nosings-around of the the gentle salamanders have begun!

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And so now, once again, the kids are in shorts, their little winter knees enjoying the beginnings of the warm spring sunshine…

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…but we still enjoy the occasional cool-morning fire, and though the days will warm, and our memories of warm fires and cold snowflakes will fade into cool waters and warm sands, I’m quite sure that homemade donuts and coffee will be an appropriate morning treat no matter what the morning brings! 

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Trees! (April 25)

“Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27, NIV)

The Lord has made it a priority in our lives to prepare our land first, and work on our house in the times in between. Winter has been a nice time for some indoor projects, continuing to finish out our space, and building some wonderful furniture; but even in winter, the priority was to place our farm order for spring, and to start seedlings for transplant. With the arrival of spring weather, we have resumed our outdoor activities, clearing land and preparing planting beds for sowing and transplanting that will begin as early as next week!

But this year, we had something more to do than just plant crops. As we made our farming plans, we realized that we should plan to put in fruit trees as soon as possible, since they will take several years to start producing. One of our late fall activities was to clear the land that will become our orchard, a section at the front of our property with some existing apple trees, bordered by the small stream that flows along the edge of our land. And so, in the winter, we placed our tree order; and now, ready or not, spring was here and it was time to go pick them up!

It was a bit of a drive, and so we turned the errand into a little overnight adventure to the capital city of Augusta! It was a lovely day for it, and after a scenic drive, we arrived in time to enjoy a warm and sunny day on the Kennebec River…

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…and a stroll down the historic streets of Hallowell, just on the outskirts of town.

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It has now been over a year since we have stayed in a hotel, and so there was much delight from the kids over this adventure from dimly-remembered days gone by! It was a wonderful set-up, a little suite with two beds and a pull-out couch, a kitchen and a separate bedroom, and there was lots of excitement simply over opening and closing doors, laying on all of the beds, sitting on all of the chairs, and turning on both TVs!

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Asher even picked a lovely spring blossom in the parking lot, and put it in a glass of water on the windowsill. We left it behind us for the housekeeping staff with a thank you note and a Scripture: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.

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There was an evening social in the hotel dining room, next to the double-sided gas fireplace, but the main event was, of course, the pool!

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And after a splashing-good-time, Asher said, “Okay, I’m ready to go back to my hotel room now for a nice, hot shower!” He’s so grown-up 🙂

And so, after stopping by the lobby for hot-teas-to-go, we trooped upstairs to cycle everyone through the shower (“Mom, when is the hot water gonna run out?” “Never!” “Awesome!”), and settle down to find something suitable on TV for the evening.

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After a good night’s rest, we were up bright and early for breakfast at 6:00, followed by Bible study, and then packing up and heading over to the Maine State Museum, across from the capitol building, for a 9:00 opening.

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What a great place! We spent several hours of happy wandering through displays about all types of local industry from logging to milling to smelting, rooms depicting life and work through the ages, an extensive collection of scientific specimens and gemstones, and a meandering nature display winding through habitats from forest to coastline, filled with samples of the birds, plants, and animals that inhabit them. This particular portion was like the “Where’s Waldo?” of the museum – “Where’s the wood duck?” “Did you find the wood duck?” “Oh, there’s the wood duck! Right there! Right there!”

And now it was time to get down to business. We hitched up the trailer and made our way out to nearby Swan’s honey, where we picked up a hefty supply, asked a bunch of questions, and got some books and information to start preparing ourselves for bee-keeping, possibly as early as next spring.

And then down the road to Fedco, where we picked up the very exciting beginnings of our orchard! The ladies there shared our excitement, looked over our order, and chatted with us about late ground thawing and deer damage to young trees 🙂

And then we made our long way home, eventually arriving at dinner-time at nearby Vazquez, along with everyone else in town, since they just opened for the season the day before! After a long wait, but with full bellies, we meandered on home, a successful and delightful trip behind us, and happy to hear the sounds of our own forest and crawl into our own blankets.

And then Wednesday morning, it was planting time! There were many holes to be dug, dirt to be amended, and trees to be opened out of their wrappings, one-by-one, soaked in the stream, and gently tucked in to their new homes! Plums and peaches and cherries and apricots, hazelnuts and honeyberries and raspberries and blackberries, planted and mulched and then, of course, hand-watered by one of a cheerful crew of three kiddos!

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(Watering was much more cheerful work than digging, as you can imagine!)

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And soon enough, just before the rain set in, all the little trees were snugged in neat and ready to grow.

And so, as the ground thaws and the air warms and the birds sing, we prepare our fields as the Lord directs and trust in His goodness to provide in our days to come!

Who’s Having a Birthday? (April 15)

Ahhhhh, a birthday, started off just right, by candlelight, while the morning is still dark outside, with espresso and cookies!

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The boys, having wandered out of bed, snuggled up in front of the wood stove…

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…but soon, everyone was awake, and it was time to open presents! Sweet little kiddos, they do such a great job making presents for Daddy 🙂

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Spencer had a little something extra in store…Besides his drawing, he had also wrapped up a few extra treats, and bundled Daddy up to bed with a movie while he set about hiding them for a birthday-hunt!

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He did a great job, and it took Joe a very respectably long time to find them all!

In place of the traditional birthday cake, we gathered around a yummy birthday-pudding! Homemade vanilla pudding, sprinkled with chocolate chips, served with chocolate hazelnut cookies, and topped with birthday candles – it’ll do!

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Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday our-favorite-most-wonderful-best-dear Daddy, happy birthday to you!

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Last Chance? (April 14)

Yay, one last snowfall! What a surprise!

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One lovely evening, a heavy spring snow fell…

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…and the kids had one, last, magical morning to play in the snow for the season!

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By lunchtime, the sun had come out, and most of the snow had already melted away by the end of the day…What a lovely send-off!

And, though more than once I’ve thought that the sap was finished running, I’ve continued to be surprised as it springs back to life, sending us back to the kettle to boil down more syrup, and supplying more days of refreshing morning-air-chilled sap to share together!

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Really, God, out of a tree, what an amazingly delightful idea?!

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Inside, a rainy Sunday led to construction of a blanket fort…

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…which then inspired a school-day learning fort…

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…I’ve also observed some new learning behaviors in my rapidly-blossoming little reader… 🙂

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And this is what a sunny spring work-day looks like…5 little water bottles all in a row! With most of the snow melted away, and the daytime temperatures soaring up into the 50s, we’ve enjoyed several days of family land-clearing…

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It’s good, tiring work, pruning and pulling and shredding and stacking firewood, getting some sunshine on our cheeks and noses and forearms…

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…occasionally stopping for some spontaneous goofiness, like an Old Man’s Beard made out of old man’s beard! “Hmmmm, let me see, here….hmmmmmm….!”

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And so, after most sunny days, we find ourselves quite ready to call it an early night, easing tired muscles into comfy blankets, and drifting into a good night’s sleep…So, this should be the introduction to what we think of as our “busy” season…With much on the horizon, clearing and planting and transplanting and succession planting and weeding and harvesting and painting the house and doing some plumbing, and who knows what else might come up along the way, it’s shaping up to be busy, indeed!

A lovely little pair of Mourning Doves have become frequent visitors to our feeder – I think they are the same pair from last year, and that they are nesting at the edge of the forest behind our house…They are delightful, quite the devoted little pair, whom the kids have named Peter and Lucy, so very lovely to watch each day, as they peck around the farm beds, and clean up under the feeder, and wander their funny little chicken-walk out into the forest…So very lovely to hear each morning, as they fill the forest with their tranquil Coo-coo-coooooo…So very lovely to remember that their endearing mannerisms, their beautiful melody, their exquisite feathers, are all the fingerprint of that most lovable of Persons, the Heavenly Father who created them!

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Easter Day! (April 1)

You know, I really enjoy Easter! Like many things in our life right now, it’s kind of a quiet affair, kind of a simple affair, but definitely a treasured family affair!

Last year, we had a warm Easter, and enjoyed an Easter hunt all over the forest. But this year, with late snow and an early Easter Sunday, we looked forward to an indoors-snug-in-jammies kind of an Easter hunt, instead!

Like most Sundays, our morning started off easy and relaxed, with hot chocolate and hammocks and a nice warm fire…And after we all slowly became fully active, we shared a big Easter brunch of turmeric-dyed hard boiled eggs with pan-fried ham and hot-off-the-griddle bread – a simple meal, fitting for remembering the Lord’s day, with a side of delight on Genevieve’s face, who was very happy to have dyed eggs!

With bellies full, we bundled the kids upstairs and settled them snugly into our bed to watch VeggieTales Easter Carol, while we hid all of the Easter goodies downstairs!

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Thirty pieces of silver and thirty Scripture citations, written on small pieces of colored paper, were hidden all over the downstairs…They were magneted to walls, slipped between blankets, peeking out from underneath bowls…And when everything was ready, we finished the movie with the kiddos, and brought them downstairs to start hunting! Beginning with Vivi, each of them went on the long search for 10 dimes and 10 strips of paper, and there was much excitement and squealing as they searched and found and searched and found!

Spencer was the first kiddo to find his twenty items…and the first to discover what came next. I told him to leave his scriptures on the table, and take his 10 dimes to Daddy…

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…and so he handed over his 10 dimes, and Daddy handed him a little card, which read, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21) 

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And Joe handed him a 10-dollar bill in exchange for his 10 dimes! (And also gave him the 10 dimes back, why not?)

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It was just cute and fun for each of the kids to go through this little ceremony 🙂 

Oh, the happy little faces! All hunting and exchanging complete, with verses laid out in order, we gathered around the table to share homemade chocolates and cookies and take turns reading the story of Jesus’ life, betrayal, death, and glorious resurrection! 

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Oh happy, happy Easter!

The First Hike of Spring! (March 31)

A warm, sunny Saturday! It’s time to hit the trail!

And so we drove out to Cutler, in search of the Bog Brook Cove preserve, to take a walk through the woods, visit a pond, and throw pebbles in the ocean!

It was so bright and sunny, one of those sharp, clear days that sends all the colors to maximum brilliance.

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Of course, just like at home, it was not exactly spring yet, and there was the odd bit of winter still lingering about to make things interesting!

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But, the trail was well-marked, and a little snow on the ground was no problem. It was actually an advantage for the kids, who enjoyed little scoops of snowball refreshment along our way 🙂

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The forest is never not-lovely; still, a woods awakening into springtime activity is always a special reminder of God’s faithfulness, His everlasting life, His victory over death, an annual reminder that He certainly reigns!

Sun shining…

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…birds chirping…

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…lots of perfect places to perch…

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…and, on the occasional rocky outcropping, an exotic forest of tiny, glowing lichens to admire!

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These guys make the forest look like some kind of distant, volcanic island, not just a sunny granite cliff in the backwoods of Maine!

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Norse Lake was a bright and sparkling blue, set in stark contrast to surroundings still snoozing in winter attire. Though several beaver lodges were visible, and birds chattered nearby, and the marshy edges looked like perfect nooks for little paddlers of all kinds…

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…nothing rustled the grasses or stirred the waters except my three little adventurers!

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It was peaceful, and picturesque, enjoying the winter waterscape…

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…and winter blossoms!

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And then we were off to the shore, where Bog Brook empties out into the cove, in a lively torrent of snow-melt and spring-rain, sending brown, tannin-rich forest water hurtling into the turquoise arms of the waiting sea!

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It’s beautiful from every angle!

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There had to be at least a dozen varieties of lovely seaweed, appearing as kind of a tangled mess from a distance, but astonishingly beautiful and varied upon close inspection.

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Where the rocky cliffs met the pebble beach, sun-warmed snowmelt turned the walls into cascading waterfalls, glittering in the sun…

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…and funneling cool ocean breezes into a swirling tunnel to lift a little girl’s hair up to meet them!

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For lunch, we found a bridge, and settled down for a picnic…

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…dangling our feet over the sparkling, rushing brook…

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…and then wound our happy way back through the forest, the first hike of spring satisfactorily complete!

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Only in Maine… (March 30)

We’ve enjoyed such a lovely spring snow, all month long! It came in so thick that it has survived through many a warm and sunny day…Days when igloos were joined with tunnels and became castles…

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…and slowly melted down and were modified into intricate tunnels…

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…with plenty of windows for three little kiddos to gather and share story-time “inside”!

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In fact, we had so much fun in the snow in our front yard, that I forgot something very important…Something that would not return to my memory until one Sunday afternoon, when we went for a walk…Through the snowy forest, out to the ATV trail, where the kids threw snowballs and made snow angels and buried themselves in the snow…

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We followed the path home that led across the stream…Where I remembered…That we have the best sledding hill ever right here in our own backyard! 

So, down they went, my little otters, running up the hill…

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…and belly-sliding down again…

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…twisting and rolling and gliding…

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…until they were bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked with all that springtime snow!

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Only in Maine can you forget about your sledding hill! 🙂

And with warm days and cold nights, the sap has continued to flow, and we have continued to enjoy the bright, clear draughts of maple sap fresh from our trees! As we gather the sap, we put most of it into the kettle to boil down for syrup, and pour off one bottle fresh to share. We chill it in a snow bank for an hour or so, and then serve it out into mugs and gather around the table, while Joe reads to us about Ent-draughts from J.R.R. Tolkien, until we’ve all enjoyed the last, sparkling drop!

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Only in Maine can you tap a tree for a refreshing drink!

And as the sun warms, the world around us slowly continues to melt into spring…

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The lively sparkle of the warming world awakens all surfaces, freeing the tree limbs and rooftops from their snowy blankets, and sending the tiniest streams dancing and rushing away to their next adventure! It unfolds so slowly, day after day, the brilliant crystals of winter’s breath giving way, bit by bit, to the warm in-roads of spring, everywhere a feast for the eyes of interwoven seasons, one reluctant to depart, the next gentle and persistent in arriving!

Only in Maine can you enjoy two seasons in the same day!

And on one bright, sunny day, I realized that there would be precious few days where I could take in this lovely view, crisp laundry in the warm sun painted with the silhouettes of apple branches against a backdrop of snow!

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…I took one last glance at the most beautiful laundry line in the world, and thought to myself, “Only in Maine, Lord, only in Maine!”

Surprise! Winter! (March 18)

When last we spoke, a lovely packing snow had prompted igloo construction, and similar fun continued through the week with sled runs…

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…and frosty maple sap beverages…

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…but more was on the way! Another storm came rolling in, bringing a fresh blanket of snow…

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…about boot-deep…

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…providing new igloo-roofing materials…

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…and prompting a winter-wonderland-wander through the forest, all naturally transformed into black-and-white photography, with one little magical bright spot of color!

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Overnight, the snow continued to fall, until some of us were waist-deep…

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…and some of us were mailbox-deep…

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…and all of us were shovel-deep!

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The sun’s power still shone through, though, causing icebergs to calve off the front of the truck…It’s one of the side effects of global warming, you know?

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But some genuine winter cold was not far behind, and as the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped into the single digits for a last (I think!) whisper of winter before the season is gone!

And so, as the icicles began to soften, the wind whipped around them, and they were frozen again, into the most wonderful shapes, before they could melt away!

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So here I am, on another beautiful Sunday morning, now that it has warmed up from 2 degrees to 15 degrees, marveling once more at the beauty of early morning sunshine through crystal icicles…

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…watching the sun climb through the Maine forest, through an icicle forest, and just happy to be here, Lord!

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