Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Battle The Flies, Live Your Destiny

by Donna L. Watkins

You've just received encouragement and your faith tank is full and hope fills your cup to running over .... this is when the Enemy attacks. The Great Deceiver doesn't want us walking in our destiny and purpose on this earth and he'll do anything to try to stop us. We must not listen to those negative messages that bombard our mind. We must choose to think on what is stored up in the brain for such a time as this. When the Enemy attacks, we must attack back with God's Word. Otherwise, you just crawl back into your depression culvert and wiggle your way to the darkest corner.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Red-spotted Purple Admiral Butterfly on Black Willow Tree
God is faithful to send us words of encouragement and confirmations of His plans for our lives, but we have free will to make the choice to walk in those promises or to step outside His grace and be taken out of God's game of life where we were designed and destined to be the winners. Choice ... that's what many things come down to. Sometimes you wonder why God gave us free will ... but to have a loving relationship you need to choose. God created us to have relationship with Him and continues to desire one-on-one time with us.

If we don't have a good mental picture of a loving father, we won't draw near to God who named Himself Father. Sadly, many parents are not the picture of God that He desired for them to be as we grew up. That's generally because they didn't have a great parental covering during their childhood either. All of this continues because the devil continually seeks to kill and destroy all that God desires for us.

Each of us has a purpose and destiny and that's what we seek to find when we get saved and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord. We have to definitely know that the devil will try every way he can to steal our dreams, visions and God's greatest desires placed within our hearts.

I was pondering all of this the other day as I watched a few Red-spotted Purple Admiral butterflies on our Black Willow tree beside the porch. We had pruned a large limb from the trunk because it was hanging too low over the walkway. That left an area that produced some sap that the butterflies wanted to delight themselves with; however, there were flies and wasps that wanted it also.

I watched as I also chose to video the event. I was glad the butterfly didn't give up. In all its beauty, it stayed focused on its task and purpose, while those fluttering wings kept the flies at a distance. View Video.

When we seek hard after God we can be assured of many battles in life, but we're also assured of the victory in the end. Hang in there. Battle the flies that try to chase you away from your dreams. Stick with what you know your purpose is for today and your destiny in Him will be revealed.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

All About Busy Beavers

It’s a blue-skied, early-autumn day and I’m tromping a creek-side trail deep in western North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. For years, I’ve been drawn to these treed slopes and tumbling streams. Today, though, I’m neither fishing, nor backpacking, nor hunting mushrooms — my usual excuses for wandering the woods. Instead, I’ve come to check on a hard-working family that moved to the neighborhood a decade ago.

I round a bend, and a downed tree blocks the trail, its gnawed end and pencil- stubbed stump telling me I’m nearing my destination. I step over it and proceed past more tooth-whittled trees. As I top a rise, the woods open and the landscape transforms. Before me lies a still pond of some 5 acres, with a broad margin of grassy marshland.

A few yards from the high bank where I’m standing, a jumble of logs, sticks and mud blocks the creek, slowing the flow to a relative dribble of its upstream rush and tumble. This is the beavers’ dam, built to provide deep, still water for a safe home. I don’t see the rounded dome of a stick-built lodge. These beavers, like many, instead may have burrowed into a bank underwater, then up, to hollow out a subterranean home. Tall, dead trees rise from the pond that slowly killed them, their bleached trunks pocked with cavities drilled by woodpeckers, but now used by birds and other creatures for shelter. Read the entire article.

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Trade In Electronics For Cash

You can trade in old cellphones, computers and more at the following websites and get a charitable deduction for your tax return, or get cash or a gift card.

Wire Fly Trade-Ins.com 

Tiger Direct Trade-In 

Costco, Best Buy and Sears have trade-in programs for electronics also, so be sure to give them a call for details ... or check their websites.

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Being 60, Focusing on Adventure #11-16

by Donna L. Watkins

I'm about six weeks into this adventure and it's something I've now decided I need to do each year. This Story Begins Here.

Focusing on having 60 new adventures, since I was turning 60, has truly made me more aware of day-to-day life. When you're looking for a new experience you're actually looking for something good to happen. Because of that you notice all the good things that do happen in a day. They may not be new experiences, but it puts you in touch with "the present" and that's a good thing.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Locust Borer Beetle on Goldenrod
Greenstone Overlook Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
Many people spend days making plans for future events or spend too much time in the past with regret which only breeds hopelessness and depression. So I hope I'll start a new trend among people to celebrate their birthday age as a starting point for another year of being who you are and enjoying it. So ... here's more of the excitement I have found in this new year of adventure.

#11 of 60 - While walking along the short trail offered at Greenstone Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I found a new bug.

The larvae of this Locust Borer Beetle (Megacyllene robiniae) bore into the heartwood of living locust trees, so that's not a very nice thing to think about. It attacks only black locust trees of the genus Robinia, which originally grew only in the Allegheny and Ozark mountain regions.

Due to this tree's ability to thrive in poor soils, it has been widely used as a shade tree, therefore, the locust borer beetle has now extended its range and is found over most of the U.S. and southern Canada.

This adult version of the beetle is beautiful with the bright yellow base with an artist's abstract design on it's back. This is one magnificent insect that is about an inch long, stately and impressive. The adult beetle appears when goldenrod is in bloom, which is what this one is on. It's a main source of food for them as an adult.  View all photos of the Blue Ridge Parkway Day.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Two Female Sachem Skipper Butterflies with a Male in the Middle -
Humpback Rocks Homsetead on Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
#12 of 60 - I've been thrilled that many of my "new adventures" have been butterflies that I've never seen before. I love butterflies and since our habitat here at Bluebird Cove includes a butterfly bench, it's quite appropriate to be in love with them. The guy who made this is the husband of a very dear friend, who has gone on to Heaven a couple of years ago. The butterfly bench sure reminds me of her visits and her love of butterflies. I have another friend who loved Louise Allred also and when we see butterflies, we think of her.  Butterflies are a visual image of our being able to become something new by wrapping up the old and coming forth with a new vision and destiny.

While we visited the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the butterflies were numerous all over the zinnias placed around the edges of the vegetable garden at the homestead there. I saw a lot of familiar ones but noticed lots of these new ones on one end, as if they had all turned into butterflies that very morning.  They were to be identified later as male and female Sachem Skipper Butterflies.

While I snapped away, I was delighted to get this shot of three of them on one flower. I wasn't even sure they were the same butterfly, but discovered that it was two females with a male in the middle. Wasn't he in butterfly heaven? Since butterflies only live about two weeks, with a focus on eating, mating and laying eggs before they die, this guy was busy about butterfly business for sure. View all photos of the Blue Ridge Parkway Day.

#13 of 60 - Many times on our visits to the Blue Ridge Parkway, we'd take a county road that runs alongside the parkway and look at homes that had beautiful views and such great proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Of course, in reality, we wouldn't want to live that close since in its entirety the Parkway gets 19 million tourists a year.

However, there was always this place of mystery with a huge mansion that had many owners and a bit of romance to its original owner.  You couldn't see it from the road.  As I was looking for events scheduled around the time of our son's visit, I found that there was going to be an open house at Swannanoa Palace so it instantly went on the itinerary.

It was initially built as a summer palace for the wife of Major James H. Dooley, a millionaire and philanthropist who had a large estate in Richmond, Virginia. Swannanoa is an Italianate villa that took 300 artisans eight years to build and was completed in 1912 at a cost of $2 million.  The estate is now privately owned and is in the process of renovation for a possible bed and breakfast. With 52 rooms, there's still a lot of work to be done. View entire album of Swannanoa Palace in Nelson County, Afton, Virginia.

2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  They have a new website to celebrate.  It's a great time of year to see Autumn colors along the Blue Ridge Mountains and if you're coming this way, be sure to let me know.  Maybe we'll be able to meet you for a short visit.  View Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Website.  If you'd like more pictures, here's another album of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley area.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Variegated Fritillary Butterfly - Grounds of Swannanoa Palace, Afton, VA
#14 of 60 - I was very excited when I determined that I had photographed a Variegated Fritillary Butterfly (Euptoieta claudia) on our visit to Swannanoa Palace. There are several varieties of fritillaries that look the same (to this my non-expert eyes). I had thought many times that I'd found a fritillary that I'd not seen before, only to find it was the Great Spangled Fritillary again and again.

There must have been some host plants on the property. A host plant for a butterfly is a place the female lays her eggs and the caterpillar begins to eat the leaves (and sometimes flowers depending on the butterfly species) of where the eggs were laid. Host plants are especially important since without them, there can be no butterflies. This particular butterfly uses a variety of plants - the more the better to keep it from extinction. The hosts include maypops / passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), may apple (Podophyllum peltata), violets (Viola), purslane (Portulaca), stonecrop (Sedum), and moonseed (Menispermum).

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Blue-ringed Dancer Damselfly
#15 of 60 - We live in a large community set amidst a rural county.  The downtown is two blocks long.  A few years ago they converted the railroad stretch from the main street into the Fluvanna Heritage Rail Trail.  It's a lovely wooded setting above the Rivanna River with benches available for resting or watching life flow by.

While my husband and son decided to descend a steep trail to the river, I noticed a damselfly that looked like a "new adventure" qualifier, so I took photos of that.  It turned out to indeed be a new one for me.  A beautiful Blue-ringed Dancer Damselfly (Argia sedula), so named for their dancing flight pattern.

Dragonflies hold their wings out and damselflies rest with them up and together.  Since I found some dragonfly larvae in our little pond, I've been even more fascinated with these beautiful creatures.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Basilica Orb Weaver's Egg Case
#16 of 60 - One day on the way back from the mailbox I noticed something I'd not seen before that seemed to be part of a spider web.  There was also a small spider below it, but with so little web I wasn't sure it was related.

Thanks to an online place where you can get bug photographs identified (Bug Guide.net). I discovered it was a Basilica Orb Weaver Spider's egg case.

I learned that this spider, like many orb weavers, cuts her web down each night. Unlike others, during egg laying time, this spider cuts her web in such a way that it drifts down over her eggs creating a protective coating. Quite a feat of physics and engineering ... another one of God's many miracles!  Continue on the adventure of life with me ....

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

Update and Release of Tree Frog Tadpoles

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Tadpoles Eating Algae on Sides of Bucket
Each Circular Green Leaf (Duckweed) is the Size of a Pin Head
As promised here's an update on the tadpoles I've been blessed to be able to enjoy and learn from.

The beginning of the story begins here: Eastern Gray Tree Frog Tapoles in Birdbath

It seems the little sweeties aren't growing fast enough to mature before hibernation time.  My sweet researching husband found some information that says for every two tadpoles you need a liter of water because they excrete a chemical that will cause them to stay in the tadpole stage if it gets concentrated in the water.

That would definitely be the case since my 5-gallon bucket is not adequate.  So I've been faced with the decision of what to do and have decided it best to keep a few and release the rest into the pond.  Now that I "know" them I sure had a hard time thinking of them being lunch for our green frogs ... but then I love our green frogs also, and that's the cycle of life for now on this earth.

So, on Saturday, September 11, we made the short walk to the pond.  I kept 14 of the bigger ones and blessed the rest into the "big pond" which is only 5x10 feet, but it must seem like the ocean to them.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Gray Tree Frog
When I emptied a capsule of Spirulina into the bucket for their last meal before release, I watched all those little mouths rise to the top to gobble it up.  I'm grateful to be able to raise the ones still in the bucket, but am still hoping there is time for them to grow into frogs and be released.

As I pondered the events while on the deck, I noticed that Papa Tree Frog was watching from one of his favorite daytime places ... in the eave of the deck roof in a corner.  It's amazing how he changes color to match his surroundings.

It's really nice to know he's still around to watch over his offspring.  I certainly wish I could ask advice now and then, but his croaking makes no sense to me at all, so I don't ask questions.

I'm sure we'll turn out with more tree frogs than would normally survive since very few do, which is why they lay hundreds of eggs.  I know I did the right thing but I'm sure looking forward to the earth when Jesus reigns so it can work the way it was supposed to.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins
First Tree Frog Tadpole with Back Legs
Not long after I provided more water for the remaining frogs in the bucket, they began sprouting legs.  It was quite amazing to see it happen so fast since it was only six days later, on September 17, that I saw first evidence of the legs on one of the tadpoles.  That was very encouraging.

By September 22, there were quite a few of the tadpoles showing legs and that seemed to be growing a bit wider.  I was able to get a video at this stage of the process, so you can view the movie of them giving me bubble kisses.

It also seemed as though the frog's body was growing within a covering of some sort.  I noticed when they completed the metamorphosis later, that they did indeed leave a "shell" behind.  It was split and laid on the bottom of the container in almost a square shape.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Tadpole with Front Legs
Front legs are supposed to appear about two weeks after the rear legs, so we're watching the calendar and their bellies for sprouts.  When they have front legs they climb out of the pond pretty quickly.  Tree frogs are the only ones who can literally climb out since their toe pads are built for it.  Tree frogs don't live in ponds ... they only lay eggs there and develop from tadpole to frog, so they can't survive without oxygen once they make the metamorphosis.

Other frogs need to be able to get out of the water to breathe, but need some kind of support to do so if the sides are slick.  We've had floating water lettuce in for shade and a place to hide among the roots.  I believe they eat some of the roots also.

On September 24, we had a tadpole with well-developed front legs.  I had decided to get another container with a lid to move the ones with front legs into as Stage Two in the process since they move so quickly from front legs to climb-out frogs.  So I used a plastic container that organic greens came in.  Since they are so sensitive to chemicals with their thin skin (babies and adults), I would not use one from non-organic produce without cleaning it with a non-chemical soap.  Again I used water from our pond heating it up on the deck with the daytime solar heat of the sun.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - First Tadpole to Morph Into a Tiny Tree Frog
As you see from the previous photo, that tadpole had a long tail at 3 PM when the photo was taken.  By evening, he was on the side of the container ready for release with only a stub of a tail.  Amazing!  He was so tiny but ready to face the big world.  I taped a ruler on the end of the container where he had climbed up and noticed he was only about a 1/2 inch square.  They grow 1-1/2 to 2 inches long.

So tiny yet so well developed.  Like a baby with all those miniature toes and nails.  Absolutely wonderful the gifts of God to us and the natural world around us.

You could see him breathing and his belly was so transparent that you could see a resemblance to body organs.  His toe pads were like dots from a pencil point.  It was a little wonder of the world right in our living room.  So brave, so ready for life outside of the water, with enough courage to forge his own path somewhere outside our doors.

Would he/she stay in the area?  Would she/he know me when I spoke or when he saw me bend over a pot he might be taking his daytime nap in?

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Gray Tree Frog Ready For Release
After all bees can recognize faces, which really isn't surprising since they seem to know which flowers they've been to and maybe where the ones are with the best nectar.

So ... will "my" tree frogs return to the deck they enjoyed getting warmed on? They thrive in a temperature range of 68-75 degrees. The Papa that has returned year after year.  Eastern Gray Tree Frogs are supposed to live 7 to 9 years.

CAUTIONS:  Use extreme caution when holding frogs. It is best to grasp their shoulder blades (or scapulae) with your thumb and forefinger. Be careful not to squeeze their abdominal area. Touch frogs only with wet hands that have been cleaned of all sunscreens or insect repellants, which can kill frogs, tadpoles, or eggs.

On September 25, I released this first frog into a pot of heritage petunias on the deck.  It had plenty of bugs in it and it was a shaded place for the tree frog to spend the day.  They are nocturnal feeders.  Again, we never use chemicals on our plants, so consider that if you release a frog.  Place it in an area that will not have chemicals.  Amphibians are an indicator species for pollution since they will not survive it, so the populations get totally wiped out of a toxic area.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - First Tree Frog Release Into Heritage Petunias
If you have chemicals in all areas of your yard, please consider releasing the tree frog in a forested area.  You always need to keep in mind the habitat that the animal will need.  Tree frogs need trees and woods to find insects to eat.  They live on bugs and worms, not aquatic things like pond-dwelling frogs.

Their scientific name is Hyla versicolor because they blend in with their surroundings, as was seen with the Papa frog above. The coloring can be anything from a mottled grayish green or solid green to a gray or creamy white color. The inner thighs on the hind legs of all gray tree frogs are yellow or bright orange.

The process took almost eight weeks for the first frog. I had 13 more frogs to go. At least I was now confident that they were progressing normally and they would be able to be released before it was too cold. Some gray treefrogs spend the winter in a partially frozen state under leaf litter, rocks and logs. I will be wondering where all my tree frogs are wintering over.

One thing that will shorten their lives are predators.  In the midst of all I was doing with the tree frogs, I came out of the garage door the same day as the release to find a young snake wrapped around an Eastern Gray Tree Frog.  I was mortified!  I instantly thought of it as being the Papa and how awful to release an offspring on the same day as his death.  

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Gray Tree Frog After Snake Attack
I had not seen that kind of baby snake before, so I stepped inside to grab my camera so I could get a photo and identify it from a book. When I came back out seconds later, the snake was gone and I saw that the frog was still breathing. Since I knew the snake was not poisonous, there was hope for the frog. I also realized then that it was a female since they are larger than the males. It could've been the tadpoles mama.

I picked it up and it had enough energy to struggle so I cupped her in my hand and ran to bang on the door so my husband could get a container for it. I put her in the clear container already with thoughts of how I was going to feed it and what I could do to help the bites on the back heal. After seeing how much energy she had, my still level-headed hubby thought it best to let her heal and feed herself, so I placed her in a pot on the deck.

When I checked a bit later, she had crawled under some leaves. She had an eye showing to watch what was going on, so that made me feel good about her prognosis. She hadn't just crawled under leaves for a peaceful place to die. When I checked after dark with a little flashlight, she was gone ... hunting for dinner I assumed ... or would it be breakfast for her? All's well that ends well.

By this morning, September 28, I have released 7 of the 14 frogs.  I will continue to transition them from the bucket to release into habitat and as I get the last ones into the habitat they were created for.  But then we'll be empty nesters .... again.

Each time I take them to different areas of the property.  I thought how tiny they were even compared to the leaf they hoped to and it made me think about how tiny we must seem to God in this big world.  Yet He sent His Son to die for us because He created us for fellowship with Him.  I'm so glad I had fellowship with these tadpoles ... but more than that, I'm so glad that a Living and Loving God has offered relationship to me through His Son, Jesus.  How wonderful is that!?

On October 9, froggie number 14 released itself.  I had put the container (a large clear plastic one that had salad greens) outside on the deck rail for the day to soak up the sun figuring it was time for him to climb to sit on top of some water lettuce indicating it was time to leave.  When I went out in the evening with a friend to show her the last one, we found another small baby beside the container.  It seemed one of those released had come back to .... you can make up your own story as to why.

My story is that it was nice of him to bring reassurance to the last one that all was well out there in the big world.  This last tadpole took much longer than the rest of them and was always a bit shy, so it made us both feel better to know he had a friend for the journey.  God makes sure we do also.  Remember Jesus sent His disciples out two by two.  Nobody was meant to be alone in this world.  So now, Randal and I are empty nesters, but we are still visited by the tweenfroggers when dusk settles in.  What a warm feeling to know that I had a small part in it all.  Thanks for enjoying the journey with me!
View entire photo album.
Read entire story: The Tadpoles: From Eggs to Frogs.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fast From Judging

by Francis Frangipane

If you have ever gone on an extended fast, you know it can be a life changing experience. There are many types of fasts. The king of Nineveh along with the people of his nation fasted three days from food and water. God heard the sincerity in their repentance and spared their nation, making them an example of the power inherent in fasting and prayer (see Luke 11:32).

A fast can be a powerful tool to help stimulate revival or, conversely, it can degrade into a religious exercise that has almost no spiritual significance. The Pharisees fasted twice a week, but did so to be seen of men. Their fast became a thing of pride. At its essence, the purpose of a fast is to help us reach our spiritual destination faster, hence the name fast.

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6). The goal of our hunger is for righteousness to prevail, either in us personally or in our family, church, city or nation. Fasting takes us there faster.

Yet, we must not allow our fast to become a form of self-inflicted punishment. Fasting is not about "severe treatment of the body" (Colossians 2:20-23). During the time you would have nourished your body, nourish your soul instead. Draw closer to the Lord. Read the Word of God, memorize Scriptures or pray for yourself and your loved ones or church.

Isaiah 58 tells us that a fast can also be a time to show God's love to others. The Lord says, "Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him . . .?" (verses 6-7).

Therefore, when you are fasting from food, consider also ways to help the disadvantaged and hurting. You might even devote your food money to a relief agency that is caring for people suffering in destitute places.

Perhaps the most life changing fast is the one I urge intercessors to employ. I ask them to take a month and fast from judging. It is interesting to watch their reactions. "What will we think about?" they query. I am only saying do not let your concluding thought end judging a person, rather, let it end in a prayer for mercy.

The instinct to judge, to criticize, is a curse upon the Church, and it brings death upon us as individuals. A curse? Death? Yes, every time we judge, we are simultaneously judged by God, and each time we condemn another, we ourselves are condemned (Matthew 7).

Many Christians will pray, engage in spiritual warfare and rebuke the devil, yet often the enemy they are fighting is not demonic. It is consequential. Life is being measured back to them according to their attitudes toward others. They are under judgment because they are always judging (see Matthew 7:2).

When I say "fast from judging," I do not mean we should abandon discernment. No. But judging people is not discernment. Fault-finding is not a gift of the Spirit. When we see something wrong, instead of only turning critical, we must learn to pray for mercy for that situation. We will still see what is wrong, but we are harnessing our anger and seeking to redeem what is wrong by the power of Christ's love.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7). When we resist the impulse to judge or condemn and, instead, pray for mercy, an amazing thing happens: a door of fresh mercy opens before us. You see, in every moment of every day there are two doors in front of us. One is a door that brings waves of mercy into our lives, while the other door opens to a life full of obstacles and difficulties. How do we enter the mercy door? The key to a life blessed by God's mercy is to give mercy to those around us (See Matthew 18).

There are Christians I know who have not made spiritual progress for years. They attend church, they tithe, yet they maintain a judgmental attitude. They always have something negative to say about others. As such, they position themselves under God's judgment. Their capacity to receive divine mercy is closed because they do not show mercy toward others.

James wrote: "Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). It is a sobering verse: judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy.

Are you pondering why your version of Christianity doesn't quite feel like the abundant life Jesus promised? (See John 10.) Perhaps it is because you are too judgmental. The good news, however, is this: mercy triumphs over judgment. If you know you are a sinner and that there are areas wrong in your life, yet you strive to be merciful, God promises He will respond to you as you have responded to others. The areas in your heart that need mercy will find healing in the life God grants to the merciful.

Beloved, ponder the next season of change in your life, perhaps it is time to embrace the mercy fast. Yes, for thirty days, see what changes occur when you fast from judging.

Visit the Author's Website: Ministries of Francis Frangipane.

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Can Money Buy Happiness

They are two of the biggest things we seek in life: happiness and money. But researchers looking into what makes us happy haven't found convincing evidence that money and happiness are strongly linked. Until now. So how much does money influence happiness?

Researchers polled 136,000 people in 132 countries and they found that money does indeed buy one kind of happiness. They separate happiness into two categories: life satisfaction (the belief that your life is going well) and emotional well-being.

They found around the world, as income increases, life satisfaction increases.

'Money is part of that. But it's not the positive feeling,' said Alan Steed, Ph.D., a psychologist with Allina Hospitals. Read the entire article.

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Free Birding Guide When You Travel

BirdingPal.org is a great website to find a local birder. The site links you up to somebody in the area or country you're traveling to. These locals are not paid for the service, but happily share the ornithological wonders of their area.

Use a local professional Birdingpal guide year round to customize your birdwatching tours.
You will enjoy the safety of travelling with a knowledgeable local,
who knows where and how to find the birds you want to see.

Most Birdingpals are serious birdwatchers. It's a privilege to use them if you can make arrangements to meet. Should he/she offer to take you birding, using their own vehicle, it would be courteous to pay for the fuel. A lunch and/or a small gift would also be appropriate, something as simple as a souvenir of your country, or a pin from your local birding club.

This is a great way to get to see some natural areas of a place you are visiting ... even if you're not much of a birder. Every walk-about adds to your knowledge of birds. Visit Birding Pal when you plan your next trip.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Red-shouldered Hawk and a Green Frog

by Donna L. Watkins

After we had lunch outside I heard a hawk come down and everybody scatter. Squirrels raging, birds with alarm calls and the doves with their usual heavy wing beats getting off the ground. I wondered what it had taken since it flew right up into the trees at the edge of our property.

I wanted to know ... and I didn't want to know, but I went with my camera since it was right by me. There was enough of a spot in the canopy where it sat to be able to get some photos, and I even took a video.  Fortunately I shoot through the eye piece and not the screen.  I've just never made that change when I went to digital.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Red-shouldered Hawk with Green Frog Lunch

I really couldn't "see" what I was photographing or maybe my mind just blocked seeing.  I kept wondering what it was as he ate away with his eye watching me ... and me watching him grieving for whatever life was sacrificed to provide nourishment to this hawk.

Red-shouldered hawks have nested in our backyard (behind our property) for the past 3 years and I do hear them from time to time ... and I know they're dining in the area, of course. With the fox that is continually seen and the hawks, I've not seen a bunny in quite awhile. And our squirrels have been well managed as to the population. All part of nature for now on this earth ... but some of it sure isn't pretty.

In an effort to find something positive in every situation, I guess that's one less frog to eat the tadpoles I released and were concerned about. It seems everything works itself out in the end ... if we trust and have enough patience to stay tuned in to see the good of it all. View the video.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unknown Facts About Heartworms

The American Heartworm Society has three "platinum" sponsors and five "bronze" sponsors. All eight are major pharmaceutical manufacturers.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the AHS recommends year-round, birth-to-death heartworm prevention drugs – no matter where you live, the time of year, the age of your dog, his size or health status.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Three things, specifically:

Huge conflict of interest potential. Heartworm prevention through the overuse of potentially toxic medications sold by pharmaceutical giants like Bayer Healthcare, Merial and Pfizer, is a virtual money machine for drug manufacturers, online retailers, testing laboratories, veterinarians and any other entity that can find a way to cash in.

When there's money on the table – in this case billions of dollars – your pet's health and quality of life can quickly become a secondary concern.

Note also that the ASH recommendation for year-round dosing is not because your pet needs it year-round in every state, but because it's assumed dog owners will forget to re-start the medication when the weather warms up.

And by the way – heartworm "preventives" don't actually prevent your pet from getting worms. What they do is poison the larvae at the microfilaria (L1-L2) stage of development, causing them to die.

Relatively low actual incidence of life-threatening infection. Heartworm disease is more difficult to acquire – and less lethal – than the dire warnings and marketing claims for chemical preventives would have you believe.

In order for heartworm disease to take hold, a precise sequence of events must occur involving the right climate, the right temperature for the right amount of time, the right species and sex of mosquito, and your dog's less-than-optimal immune system function.

This information is not intended to minimize the need to protect your dog, but only to point out the actual potential for heartworm disease is less than you've been led to believe by financially-motivated marketing campaigns designed to scare pet owners into buying 12 doses of preventive, year in and year out, regardless of where you live!

The existence of less toxic recommendations. There are less harmful protocols to prevent heartworm in your dog than a lifetime of once-monthly, year-round doses of toxic drugs. Read the entire article.

After you finish reading the website, consider a natural heartworm program for your pet.

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Valued by God

From Seeds of the Kingdom

God knows all about our strengths and our gifting, but He also knows all about our weaknesses, our difficulties and our limitations. So often we feel inadequate for the tasks which we are entrusted with or the challenges of life we have to face. We feel so small and often there is that sense of having failed. The enemy loves to whisper these kinds of lies into our ears.

I was very much encouraged by a story I was recently told: “In India there once lived a water carrier who carried two big jugs of water on his shoulders along a road. One of these two jugs had a big crack through which the water dripped out along the route between the well and the master’s house. Whenever they reached the house, one jug was only half full. The other one, however, could always deliver to its full capacity.

We can imagine how the cracked jug talked to his carrier: “I feel so bad, ashamed and inadequate!” said the jug. “Why is that?” the master asked. “Because, due to my terrible crack, I have only been able to bring half of the water to your house.” the jug replied.

“Don’t worry!” the master said, “Have you seen the beautiful flowers along the way between the well and the house?” “No”, the jug answered. So the master finally told the cracked jug: “I knew exactly about your crack and that you lost a lot of water along the way. So I put flower seeds along your side of the road knowing that you would water them. For years now I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table in my dining room.”

Do we commit our weak points and our human inadequacy into our Master’s hands? In His infinite wisdom He can use them for His glory. Jesus says that without Him we can’t do anything , but that with Him all things are possible. In one way or another we are all like cracked pots in our potter’s hands.

I have found that in the place of my deepest need God has often used me in extraordinary and unexpected ways. In those instances I knew that I knew that it was God who did it as there was nothing left of myself to offer. I have met deeply broken people who have such a strong fragrance of Jesus around them and have often been a source of inspiration, comfort and encouragement to me.

In Psalm 31:12 David describes himself as a broken vessel. God promises that He is close to the broken hearted. A life entirely committed to God will always be a precious vessel and tool in God’s hands, reflecting His glory.

According to Isaiah 65, God is able to bring forth beauty from ashes, joy from sadness, life from death, freedom from captivity and restoration from failure.

The question Jesus is asking us is not ‘what can you do for me or what are your talents?’ Rather He is asking us ‘do you love me?’ If we are able to answer this question with a yes from the bottom of our hearts then nothing is impossible for Him to do through us.

Even if the enemy presses in on our weak areas we don’t have to lose heart but can take courage. Don’t forget that this side of Heaven we are an imperfect and yet precious work in progress and that God can use us any time He wishes. If He is for us, who or what could be against us?

Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to realise that you are not a performance oriented God, but a God who is interested in a loving, personal relationship. I am so grateful that you are not limited by my weaknesses, inadequacies or limitations, but can be glorified through them as I trust You. Please help me, Father, to discern the enemy’s voice when he tries to put me down and condemn me in my weak areas. Help me to be strong and overcome in you. In the name of your precious son, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Please feel free to use this devotional to send on to your friends or share with your church fellowship. Provided full acknowledgement is made to Seeds of the Kingdom as the source, you are also welcome to use it in a non-commercial way and reproduce it in magazines or other Christian websites. The copyright for any commercial use of the material remains with Ellel Ministries International.

To see archive copies or sign up to receive an email copy of this daily devotional please visit the Seeds of the Kingdom website.

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Swannanoa Palace, Afton, VA

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Swannanoa Palace, Afton, VA
While I was planning events to celebrate my 60th birthday with a visit from our son, Ben, I found that this estate was going to be having an open house during the weekend that he would be here.

We had passed the property many times in our travels to the Blue Ridge area but had never seen the house or been on the property.

This was a summer place for the Dooley family, who had also built a beautiful estate in Richmond, called Maymont, which we have visited several times.

This 52-room, 23,000 square foot home is in the process of being restored with hopes of being a bed and breakfast.  The original building process began in 1912 with 300 artisans and took eight years to finish.  The exterior is white Georgian marble and is partially based on buildings in the Villa Medici, Rome.  It has quite a history as you can read on my photo album journey through the place.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

Helping the Birds and Butterflies

As development and subsequent habitat destruction accelerate, there are increasing pressures on wildlife populations. But there is an important and simple step toward reversing this alarming trend: Everyone with access to a patch of earth can make a significant contribution toward sustaining biodiversity.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins
Red-spotted Purple Admiral Butterfly on Black Willow Tree
There is an unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife — native insects cannot, or will not, eat alien plants. When native plants disappear, the insects disappear, impoverishing the food source for birds and other animals.

In many parts of the world, habitat destruction has been so extensive that local wildlife is in crisis and may be headed toward extinction.

Bringing Nature Home has sparked a national conversation about the link between healthy local ecosystems and human well-being, and the new paperback edition — with an expanded resource section and updated photos — will help broaden the movement.

Douglas W. Tallamy has written a book that will guide you through your participation to improve the patch of earth you live on. Bringing Nature Home: How You can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants is an inexpensive book and one that should be on the shelf of all those who love wildlife and seek to have a part in protecting it. With the practical recommendations in this book, everyone can make a difference.

Read more about how what you plant can kill the birds.  Visit Doug's website, Bringing Nature Home, to get more information on specific plant species. You'll be amazed to see how many species some of them help out.

Like oak trees support 534 butterfly and moth species and their larvae is necessary for birds to feed their young. Willow trees are good for 455 species.  Blueberry bushes support 368 and can be grown in pots on a porch or deck.  We're blessed to have a bunch of wild blueberry bushes around the edges of our woods.

Goldenrods support 115 species with asters supporting 112. Goldenrods attract many beneficial insects. I've noticed that goldenrods are now being sold in garden centers. Many people used to think they were responsible for allergies, but goldenrod is not wind pollinated. There are many treasures found in having Goldenrod.

Hornworms which are often found on tomatoes and other members of the nightshade family turn into beautiful Hummingbird Moths in their adult form.  Educating ourselves on the many wonders of nature around us can be all the entertainment we need.  It certainly is more brain-stimulating than staring at a tube.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Newsletter - 9/15/10

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What a grand time it has been since my last newsletter which was two days before my 60th birthday.  I've been so blessed since then, especially with the visit from our son to celebrate with me.  We certainly kept him busy with our itinerary.  I haven't finished with all the photos we took since he and I both go into camera madness when we're together.  Randal's extreme amount of patience and easy-going character is a great fit.

One of my favorite photos from my birthday celebration is one from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where Ben and I spent the afternoon after picking him up at the airport.  I just happened upon this photo idea of us both being in the looking glass of a huge wardrobe.

I love to make a birthday last a long time.  Opening the cards as they arrive days before and displaying them on the mantle.  Putting all packages there to enjoy the giver so much more than the gift by wondering and waiting for the actual day.  And allowing people to extend my birthday by scheduling some fun after the official date which was the case with our neighbor friends who took us out to a Japanese lunch (Asian is my favorite food) and a movie during an afternoon of normally scheduled work time.  I love variety!

For those of you who enjoy celebrating with me from afar, you'll find some posts on some of the festivities in this issue ... I'm savoring the photo work and taking it slow to relive every moment, so there will be more to come.  It's grand how a blog can record your life like a diary but so much easier than handwriting and the photographs really make it for me.

The tree frog tadpoles were not doing well in the bucket pond.  Not enough water ratio per tadpole. So, I had to make a decision about releasing most of them to the pond in our backyard (see update post).  Life is what it is and sometimes we can't protect what we love ... we just have to let things go at times and pray all will turn out well.  Control is not a good lifestyle choice, so we have to learn to walk with open fingers.

Get outside and enjoy this beautiful Fall weather! 

Posts Since The Last Newsletter

Learning Character From Nature (DLW)

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

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