April 27, 2014

Morning at the Marsh

I can finally feel it.

Life, returning to the earth. The bitterest of winters has finally retreated, and spring is ushering in new life where there was nothing but a frozen world.

Plants, for many months dormant under the frozen ground, eagerly push up through the softening earth. We rejoice at the sight of anything green after months of nothing but white.

I honestly thought it might not happen. There was a time, several weeks ago and more than five months into the worst winter in thirty years, that part of me felt I would never see green again.

I want to capture the morning sounds of the marsh as I sit with my window open and write. My vista is the scenic overlook of the Vernon Marsh at the end of Frog Alley Road in Mukwonago. My home is somewhere across this wide expanse of nature-in-the-wild.

I come here, where the morning sun warms my face, and listen for the sounds of life returning to this place. It has been a frozen world for so long. It makes me feel peaceful to hear life returning to this place.

Now I can hear the songs of many songbirds that have returned, including the red-winged blackbirds calling to each other. If I close my eyes, I can imagine steamy, hot summer afternoons in the marsh, with tall cattails towering over me, and turtles hiding in the cool water or resting on a log warming themselves.

As I sit here with my coffee, I can hear the sand hill cranes call out sleepily from some hidden place below me in the marsh.

I hear the robins, who have begun their earnest song: 

"It's Spring! 

It's Spring!

It's Spring!"


After a difficult day recently, I came here early to spend time with God. I wanted to spend time in prayerful thankfulness for His constant presence through the trials of the previous day.

I found such healing beauty here in the morning songs of the birds, the caress of the sun, and the soft vistas of morning light, that I vowed to come back here frequently to start my day.

I've always felt closest to God through nature. And though I've never felt far from God through this seemingly endless winter, my heart has longed to feel life and hope through my connection to the living, natural world.

I always do my happy dance, at least in my heart, when I can finally feel the earth's life energy return; when I can feel the earth coming back to life as I walk through my back yard with bare feet in the cool grass.
Winter in the woods at Retzer Nature Center

Though life is present in winter, I liken it to molecules frozen in ice -- they move so slowly as to seem non-existent. This is how most of the natural world feels when we are in the deep freeze of a long Wisconsin winter. 

But now I can feel that the earth, at least here is our part of Wisconsin, is once again a living, breathing entity, full of life, offering the promise of the next two seasons of great beauty in the flowering and green plants that thrive in our seasonal warmth.

We all feel it. Everyone seems to have more energy, and people smile more readily. Perhaps this is a partial explanation as to why we live here, and why we endure the long months of bitter cold and snow.

Perhaps we wait for the reward of new life; that feeling of renewal, that grabs us and turns us to face the sun and its warmth. To know the inexplicable joy that finding that first blooming crocus brings, and to see the tulip leaves pushing up through the earth with their promise of springtime beauty.

Now I'm not saying that I wouldn't like to try living on Maui, where flowers and natural beauty bloom year-round. I'm certainly not saying that at all!

But our reward for enduring months of cold, bitter winds, is the promise and hope of new life that springtime brings. We feel this deep in our being, and wait with hope for the change in the seasons that will bring life back into our natural world. 

Truly, this renewal feeds me to the core of who I am. My creativity is flowing again, right along with the sap in the maple trees. It won't be long until summer is in full bloom. But for now, let us cherish the simple joys of springtime. And offer thanks for the many little surprises of new life that blossom around and within us. 

Here are the early morning sounds of the marsh I captured on video to share with you. Enjoy!

We are Free to Love

 Sunday Scripture

and a


"Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.
 Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining."
1 John 2:7-8 NLT 

 A beautiful reminder of the freedom we have in Christ, sung by Aaron Shust
"We are Free"
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April 25, 2014

Signs of Life

My red maple coming back to life

It seems easier to breathe when I've left the darkness of the tomb behind. Our Easter celebration brings me great joy, sharing a feast with family and friends. 

Knowing we are celebrating the very fact that makes us Christians; the belief that Jesus died for us and rose again as a promise of our eternal life with Him, fills me with peace and a deeply felt joy.

However, I experienced a real let-down after the holiday. There was lots of food preparation to do and music to prepare for worship. A LOT to do.

I found myself feeling a little like Christmas, when we can put too much into the "doing" and not enough into the real meaning of the day. And perhaps, that's why I felt the "post-Easter" blues. 

In addition, everyone went home. While five of us in the house is hardly empty, with everyone home the house is so full of life, and I love it. It reminds me of when all the boys were growing up, and we always had a houseful, whether it was just our family or the always-welcome friends of our sons who came and ate many a meal here. 

So, to distract my brain from my sadness, I started to write. Not everyone's cure, I'm sure. But what has been birthed is my new blog, Colleen's Gardens. I've been wanting to start a gardening blog for quite some time, to share my horticultural knowledge and experience, and deep love of all things green and flowering. 

So now you can read my words in two places, but this blog will still focus on my faith. And the hope of springtime, for me, is what faith is all about. 

I spent a morning recently, on the overlook by the Vernon Marsh. I'll write about my experience there tomorrow. Taking this time out to just "be" in the early morning hours renewed my sense of who I am in this grand scheme of life.

I'm excited to note the changes in my landscape with the warmer days and sunshine. Next week will be cold again, with rain, but for now the sun is shining and the skies are blue. Enjoy the beauty of the world awakening around us. It is truly a gift to feel life stir within our hearts and lives again. 

Blessings to you, my friends.

April 19, 2014

Hope in the Darkness

I step out into the cool, early spring morning. The songs of the morning birds sing through the bare treetops, and the wind is still, for now. 

Great masses of snow have dissipated, and I long for the greening of the natural world to begin again. 

It's been so long since I could feel earth's life energy flowing. With this hint of spring, I find there is hope beginning to grow in my heart that once again the natural world will begin to feel alive 


In the dead of winter, after months of sub zero temperatures and endless white landscapes, hope for green and growing life was hard to find. 

Truly, there was a recent day when I thought I might never see color in the landscape again.
Of course, logic prevailed on that winter day, as I knew that with the cycle of the earth, spring would return, as surely as the sun would rise the next day.

But what about those of us who are deep in the dark night of the soul? When darkness surrounds you, and there is no glimmer of light, the heaviness in your heart makes it feel as if there is no hope.

The day after Jesus died, all hope was gone. As his body lay in the silence of the dark tomb, the world outside awakened. Birds sang, the warm sun rose. But for the apostles, there was no light, no glimmer of hope. Love had been defeated by death.

They didn't know that in one more day the opposite would prove to be true. Death would be defeated by Love! Joy would surge through their hearts. They would have disbelief, sure, with the miraculous vision of a man returning from death. However, their dark night of the soul would end in glorious reunion with their Lord.

Is your soul in the tomb today, my friend? We’ve all been there, when dark thoughts seem to block out the Light. When there is no hope, only despair. No joy, only sadness.

I imagine many know deep despair, after the death of loved one; after many of the disappointments that strike us deeply in our spirit and make it seem impossible to go on.

But the sun will always rise tomorrow. And while the breath of life runs through us still, we have to believe there is hope. For nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable. Perhaps we must initiate the change. But it will happen, and hope will be restored.

On that glorious Easter morning when faith was restored, when hope was reborn, the world saw a miracle, a fulfilling of prophesy.

Likewise, life does return to the lifeless heart. When despair has us lying in our graves of hopelessness, we have to believe that tomorrow will bring hope. That our faith can be restored. It may take time.

Somewhere deep within, there must glow a faint ember of hope. Lean on God to help you breathe into that flame of life inside you. Reach out to receive His love. Let His comfort cover you like a warm blanket. Rest in the safety of His Love.

You are loved. It may be a Saturday in the tomb, but tomorrow the sun will rise, birds will sing, and life will continue its endless cycle. When you are ready, rise and add your beautiful song. The world needs you and the love only you can share.

"No storm can chase my inmost calm, when to that Rock, I'm clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?"

Enjoy this beautiful rendition of "How Can I Keep From Singing"
and have hope, my friends.

Heed these words from 2 Corinthians 5, vs. 15-17

15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16 So we have stopped evaluation others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ as merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

April 13, 2014

Lead Me to the Cross

Sunday Scripture

and a


It is beyond my comprehension, 
 to imagine my Savior in his humanness, 

Carrying His Cross 

to Calvary Hill.

His ultimate sacrifice
has freed us forever.

"There is no greater love 
than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
 Mark 15:13 (NLT)

As we enter Holy Week, let us keep our eyes fixed on the cross.

Never forgetting

the Love that saved us

and set us free
from the bondage of sin. 

Today's worship song is "Lead Me to the Cross", and this version is by Chris & Conrad
It's a little bit more rockin' than Hillsong's version, but I like it - Enjoy!
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April 6, 2014

When Doubt Creeps In

Sunday Scripture

and a


"Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen."
Matthew 21:21 (NLT)

Doubt: a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. 

We all try to have faith "like a mustard seed". That tiny powerhouse of energy within us that, when nurtured, will blossom into a productive, living source that will carry us through the trials of this life. 

But what about when doubt creeps in. That unwelcome feeling that threatens our security. It creeps in through the back door and stands there, darkening the doorway. It wants to block the Light. 

Doubt brings Fear.

If we begin to entertain doubt, our next unwelcome guest is fear. And fear will steal our joy.

Don't let doubt even get a foothold in the door. Stomp out your doubt with FAITH.

Faith is our strong belief in God, our constant companion, our deliverer. Putting our faith in God as our confidence and our trust renews our strength to combat doubt and fear. Keeping our faith in God prohibits fear and doubt from creeping in to steal our joy.

Nurture your faith, keep it strong to combat fear and doubt. Keep your eyes upon Jesus, and your thoughts will not wander to doubting. We can trust in God. He's proven it. And He is always there for us. No matter what we face.

"When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer."
Psalm 94:19 (NLT)

One of my favorite contemporary Christian recording artists is a man who knows a thing or two about fear. Through his faith in God, Jason Gray overcame a debilitating stutter to become a successful singer-songwriter who shares his faith and humbly shares his story with his audiences. When Jason speaks, his stutter is evident, but through his songs, God has blessed him with the power to share His love and never once does he stutter.

This song, "No Thief Like Fear" is from his album, "A Way to See in the Dark" 
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