Friday, November 14, 2014

Grateful Grace #4: Leu Gardens in the Autumn

On Thursday, I went to Leu Gardens in Orlando with my youngest daughter to meet up with my oldest daughter and three of my grandsons. (There are 37 photos in this post, so it may take a little while to load. Thank you for your patience.)


 The Leu House Museum

Peter Otfinoski sculptures

 Rose garden

All beautiful!


The pictures in this post were shot with a 
Canon Powershot ELPH 135
and edited with Picasa -
not fancy, but they do the job!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grateful Grace #3: It's a Wonderful Life???

For some reason as I was waking up this morning, I got to thinking of the movie It's a Wonderful Life. In this Christmas classic, George Bailey is on the brink of suicide until an angel shows him the impact his lifetime of kindness has had on his family and community.

This in turn made me think of all of the wonderful people in my life who have been so kind to me. I can go back and thank many of them, but there are those who are a only brightened spot in the hazy recesses of my memories. Whoever and whenever, they weren't serving for recognition, but because they saw a need and an opportunity to contribute toward the greater good in some small or big way. They make a difference. You make a difference. I wrote about this in my poem Your Kindness Gave Me Courage.

I try to do the same. Sometimes it is in such mundane ways - like remembering to pick up a pack of colored pencils for a child's project, or thanking a store worker by name, or sending a web link with helpful information to a friend, or bringing a bottle of cold water over to a sick lady in the urgent care clinic's waiting room while I'm sitting there waiting with one of my own kids. Sometimes it's a much bigger deal.

So anyway, as I was thinking of writing a Grateful Grace blog post on this concept, I thought of that obvious title, "It's a Wonderful Life!" and then I thought again. If I didn't already know the context, frankly, I'd be a bit put off by it. Too much Pollyanna-rose-colored-glassy-stuff. 

You see, I'm in one of those long seasons of life where everything seems (much more than) a bit of a struggle. To be honest, I often feel resentful if I read a blog post by someone whose life seems to be going oh so smoothly because they have it all oh so together. And of course they have all the answers. Do this and you'll have the perfect family and the beautiful home - just like them. Blerg.

But then I realize that probably some people feel the same way about me when they read my blog. Because they don't know everything. They don't know my drama, my heartache. I try to be honest and authentic in sharing my life stories, but there's only so much you can say. (You can read more about that here: On Mommy Blogging: Image, Identity, Authenticity and Freedom.)

Hence the question marks at the end of my blog post title.

Because at times, life can suck.

I do the best I can to find the deeper meaning and savor the sweeter moments, to keep learning and growing. I do my best to get up and try again when I feel inadequate or when the rug gets pulled from under my feet by circumstances. I do my best to admit my need and ask for help from God and others when I'd really rather they think I can do it all, do it all well, and do it all by myself. I do my best to recycle my tough experiences into compassion for others. All that is what keeps me going.

It's not always a wonderful life in terms of what happens to be happening at the moment.

But it is a wonderful life in that it is filled with a sense of wonder in the midst of it all.


So here's the "wonderful life" challenge for all of us.

Seek out whatever is lovely and good in your life, and dwell there. (The grace of God is a wonderful place to start.) Then use that positive power to start working out whatever isn't already working for you.

Think about the people who have made a difference in your life, and thank them whenever you can. It might just make them want to do something kind for someone else, too.

Look for opportunities to "pay it forward" and be a blessing to others. Some will be carefully planned, others random and spontaneous. Always be ready with a smile and a kind word, even for strangers. It may be the only genuine cheer they have all day and you just might tip their teeter-totter life in the right direction.

Have wonderful life, will you? It's sort of contagious like that.


P.S. Why the marigolds at the top of this post? Because they're pretty. My purple mums are still in recovery, and I bought these cheery flowers to fill my garden with fresh autumn color. And I splurged and bought myself a new real camera (I needed a flash for my tableau pictures that my iPod couldn't handle - and photography brings me joy!), and I think the effect is rather stunning, if I may say so myself.

P.P.P.S. Oh, more!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Grateful Grace #2: "Broken Hallelujah" and the Story Behind the Song


Here's a song for those days (or weeks or months or years) when nothing seems to be going right. Yeah, I've had them, too. This is what puts the smile back on my face.

by The Afters

I can barely stand right now.
Everything is crashing down,
And I wonder where You are.

I try to find the words to pray.
I don't always know what to say,
But You're the one that can hear my heart.

Even though I don't know what your plan is,
I know You're making beauty from these ashes.

I've seen joy and I've seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

You know the things that have brought me here.
You know the story of every tear.
‘Cause You've been here from the very start.

Even though I don't know what your plan is,
I know You're making beauty from these ashes.

I've seen joy and I've seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

When all is taken away,
  don't let my heart be changed.
Let me always sing Hallelujah
When I feel afraid, don't let my hope be erased
Let me always sing Hallelujah.
Let me always sing Hallelujah.

I will always sing
I will always sing
Here's my broken hallelujah.

The Story Behind the Song "Broken Hallelujah" by the Afters

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

My Kids in "The Spell" Tableau Vivant at Creative City Project

Last Saturday, three of my kids (ages 13, 17, and 20) participated in the Creative City Project in downtown Orlando. My husband's cousin, Deborah Knispel of DEK Creates, won a spot with her proposal to do a tableau vivant (living picture) of Goya's painting "The Spell." It's a pretty spooky scene, fitting for the day after Halloween.

"The Spell" painting by Francisco Goya


It took a while for the six actors to get their makeup and costumes on.


Naomi, with help from Lydia,
whose mask is down around her neck

Lydia, Andrew, and Naomi
Lots of set up! 

There were a lot of other exhibits right there in Heritage Square in front of the Orange County historical museum, as well as at other downtown locations. We saw dancing, singing, poetry, and more.

They also had several bird kites on poles for anyone to try flying.

I gave it a whirl.

Back at the tableau, Deb directs them to get into position. They hold it for about 30 seconds, then relax again for a few minutes. They did the tableau several times that evening.

Some of the siblings came to watch. Joanna brought two friends.

 It was pretty cold out for once!

On the way back to the van, we stopped to watch an aerial act by Cirque de Soleil. The red sash was suspended from a huge crane.

One last shot of downtown Orlando lit up for the night.

A very interesting evening, I'd say!

Virginia Knowles

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