Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kidney Problems From Too Much Iced Tea A Day

From Yahoo News

When a 56-year-old Arkansas man went to the hospital last May complaining of weakness, fatigue, and body aches, at first his doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.

Tests revealed he was in kidney failure, and yet he had no history of kidney problems, nor did anyone in his family.

After some prodding, the man finally admitted he was in the habit of consuming sixteen eight-ounce glasses of iced tea, every day.

The case was described this week in a letter to the editor in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Read the entire article.

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18 Remedies to Relieve Headache & Tension

By Claire at

Headaches often get brushed aside as nothing more than a common complaint, a quit-your-whining-and-start-working type of thing…if only. While many people suffer them at one point or another, rarity is not the best way to judge just how nasty something can be.

The pain of a headache can make day-to-day life a miserable challenge, and forces us to head straight for the aspirin. This is a sticky situation, because ultimately that will only perpetuate the problem.

When you take over-the-counter pain killers all you’re doing is smothering your symptoms and ignoring the real issue of what triggers the headache.

Natural remedies for headaches may take a bit more thought than simply popping a pill, but don’t brush them off. They won’t wreak havoc on your body like other over-the-counter or prescription pain-killers do, and you’re less likely to become so dependent on them that you need them for every little ache.  Read the entire article.

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Old Testament Dietary Laws

Our Hearts Control Our Bodies
by Andrew Wommack 

Read:  Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23

Mark 7:15, "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man."

All of the Old Testament dietary laws were shadows (or pictures) of spiritual truths which would become realities in the New Covenant. These Pharisees (as well as many Christians today) missed all of the spiritual significance of these laws and saw only the physical act.

The real spiritual meaning that these Old Testament dietary laws symbolized was that we were supposed to be holy (separated) unto God in everything - even what we eat. Under the Old Testament law, it was forbidden to eat or to touch certain animals, not because there was anything wrong with the animals, but to illustrate the point of being separated unto God and to serve as a constant reminder of this separation.

Under the New Testament, we see that no animal is, or ever was, unclean of itself. The Old Testament designation of certain animals as unclean was purely symbolic, and this is why Jesus could make this statement.

Jesus' statements here refer to more than just the clean and unclean beasts of the Old Testament. He said nothing which enters into a man through his mouth can defile him. This statement cannot be interpreted, however, as condoning any type of abuse we would like to give our body such as gluttony, drug abuse, etc. Rather, Jesus is simply explaining that the condition of the heart of man should be given preeminence over the physical body.

The heart of man controls the body of man, not the other way around. Sin doesn't make our heart corrupt, but a corrupt heart makes us sin. God looks on our hearts, and our cleanliness or defilement in His sight is dependent solely on whether or not we have been made clean in our spirits by the blood of the Lamb. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Visit Andrew's Website.

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Less Water Use: Dishwasher or Hand Washing?

Fact or Fable? A Dishwasher Is More Expensive Than Hand Washing

This is a fable. It's a common misconception that dishwashers are convenient, but use more water and energy than hand washing. In fact, dishwashers can help you conserve water and save on energy bills.

Cleaning a typical load of dishes in a dishwasher uses 37 percent less water than washing by hand, saving the average household nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year.

Also, using a dishwasher, rather than hand washing, can cut your annual energy costs by more than $40, according to ENERGY STAR.

Energy-saving tips
Dishwashers are not only convenient; they are also your best energy-saving option. The following practices can help you save even more:

• Scrape dishes instead of rinsing before loading them into the dishwasher.
• Pre-rinsing dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water.
• Only run your dishwasher when there's a full load and use short wash cycles for lightly soiled dishes.
• Use a rinse agent and the air-dry setting rather than the heated drying cycle.

If you are shopping for a new dishwasher, purchase an ENERGY STAR qualified model. ENERGY STAR dishwashers use less energy and water than standard units.

“This article previously appeared in the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative Energy Sense newsletter, and is used with permission.”

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8 Poison-Free Ways to Get Rid of Mice

From Everyday Roots

View Enlarged Image
Deer Mouse
Mice are cute little critters, but that doesn’t mean we want them sharing our homes with us. As adorable as their tiny whiskery faces are, the disease they spread via urine (which they communicate with, and therefore leave a lot of lying around) and feces-not to mention the extensive damage they can do when they put their teeth to something-is no joke.

But a lot of us (myself included) don’t want to turn to traditional snap traps (have you ever seen one go wrong? It’s not pretty) or rodenticides that pose serious risk to children, pets, other wildlife, and the environment.

Being naturally nocturnal, voracious nibblers, and rapid reproducers (starting at the tender age of 6 weeks) how does one go about dealing with mice without turning to mainstream methods? Enter a fun little idea called integrated pest management (IPM.)

It takes some more work, dedication, and thought than other methods, but you can manage without using toxic chemicals, which makes it far superior in my opinion. IPM involves pest proofing your home by sealing up any potential entrances, keeping food well sealed and securely locked away, knowing your pests habits, likes/dislikes, and eliminating any water sources.  Read the entire article.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Can The Devil Hinder Your Prayers?

Can The Devil Hinder Your Prayers? 
by Clint Byars

God is willing and able to be your healer, provider and deliverer. AND the devil can not get his hands on your prayers unless you place them into his hands through fear and worry.

The devil will stand outside of you and watch you step out in your faith toward God. As you pray, the enemy will lie to you and try to cause you to shrink back from the faith filled prayer you’re speaking.

He can’t touch your prayer, he can only convince you to stop short of believing unto manifestation by speaking lies that you may be willing to believe and allow your faith to shrink back.  Watch the video message or listen to the audio message.

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How Blame Is Exhausting You

"Why are you so tired?" That's the question Gudni Gunnarsson, creator of GloMotion and author of Presence Is Power, likes to ask. But it's rare that people hit on the right, though unpopular, answer: You.

"It does not occur to anyone that they are personally responsible for being tired," says Gunnarsson. "This does not go over well. Everyone typically goes into denial, resisting the idea that they are tiring themselves out with their lifestyle, unnecessary worries, hypercriticality, and rejection of their own emotions of personality."  Read the entire article.

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How to Help a Fearful or Anxious Dog

by Dr. Sarah

Some dogs have a naturally nervous personality, and sadly, some may have been subjected to rough treatment. Whatever the cause of your dog’s fear or anxiety, there are sure to be undesirable behaviors that come along with it.

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah demonstrate some simple training techniques on video to help you turn your pet kid’s fearful behavior into comfortable acceptance – a major achievement for the fearful dog! Watch the latest Dr. Sarah video now!  Watch the video now!

Nuts & Seeds Protect Against Heart Disease

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Raw nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients. They contain lignans, bioflavonoids, minerals, and other antioxidants that protect the fragile freshness of the fats therein; they also contain plant proteins and plant sterols that naturally lower cholesterol. And because nuts and seeds supply certain fibers, phytochemicals, phytosterols, and bioactive nutrients not found in other foods (such as polyphenols and arginine), they have other beneficial effects that prevent blood vessel inflammation.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected and novel findings in nutritional epidemiology in the past five years has been that nut consumption offers such strong protection against heart disease. Several clinical studies have observed beneficial effects of diets high in nuts (including walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts) on blood lipids.1

A review of 23 intervention trials using nuts and seeds demonstrated convincingly that eating nuts daily decreases total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.2 Not only do nuts and seeds lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol, they can help normalize a dangerous type of LDL molecule (the small, dense LDL particles that damage the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels).3

Ellagitannins (ETs) are dietary polyphenols with potent antioxidant and other cancer chemopreventive activities that are found in berries, nuts (especially walnuts), and seeds.4 Walnuts can reduce Creactive protein and harmful plaque adhesion molecules, two significant markers of inflammation in arteries. The result is improved, and even restored, endothelial function (which includes the elastic property of arteries that allows dilation when necessary to meet an increased demand of blood).  According to the researchers, walnuts are the first food to show such cardiovascular benefits.5

Eating nuts provides more benefits than simply lowering cardiovascular risk factors, such as lowering blood glucose or cholesterol levels. Studies on nuts show that they actually decrease the end point of cardiovascular death and increase overall life span.6  So far, five large prospective cohort studies (the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Physicians’ Health Study, and the CARE Study) have examined the relation between nut consumption and the risk of atherosclerotic heart disease, and all have found a strong inverse association.

Notably, the protective effect of nut consumption on heart disease is not offset by increased mortality from other causes. In fact, nut consumption has been found to be inversely related to all-cause mortality in all tested populations, including whites, blacks, and the elderly. Eating nuts and seeds offers a well documented intervention for increasing longevity.

The beneficial effects of nut consumption observed in clinical and epidemiologic studies underscore the importance of distinguishing the differences between different types of fat. Most fats in nuts are mono and polyunsaturated fats that lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. However, the favorable fat issue does not alone account for the health benefits of nuts and seeds. Most importantly, these powerful health benefits are not achieved when nut or seed oils are substituted for whole nuts and seeds as a caloric source.

Based on the data from the Nurses’ Health Study, it was estimated that substitution of the fat from one ounce of nuts for equivalent energy from carbohydrate in an average diet was associated with a 30% reduction in heart disease risk, and the substitution of nut fat for saturated fat was associated with 45% reduction in risk.

Frank Hu, M.D., possibly the leading researcher on the value of nuts in the American diet and an associate of Walter Willet at the Harvard School of Public Health, says, “Our epidemiological studies have shown that eating about one ounce of nuts a day will reduce the risk of heart disease by over 30 percent.”

How Dr. Willet, who co-authored many of the studies that documented the value of eating nuts and seeds, can put oil instead of nuts at the base of his food pyramid, is beyond comprehension. Clearly, even respected research physicians make recommendations based on social, economic, and political motivations even when the science says something completely different.

Powerful findings

The Physicians Health Study is the most fascinating and perhaps most important of the studies. It found that nuts and seeds do not just lower cholesterol and protect against heart attacks; components of nuts apparently have anti-arrhythmic and anti-seizure effects that dramatically reduce the occurrence of sudden death.7 These beneficial rhythm stabilizing effects of nuts and seeds are not merely due to the amount of omega-3 fatty acids they contain, but also to other beneficial qualities of these natural foods.

When 21,454 male participants enrolled in the U.S. Physicians’ Health Study were followed for an average of 17 years, researchers found a lower risk of sudden cardiac death and other coronary heart disease end points after controlling for known cardiac risk factors and other dietary habits. When compared with men who rarely or never consumed nuts, those who consumed nuts two or more times per week had reduced risks of sudden cardiac death by over 50 percent.8

Sudden cardiac death is not a heart attack. This means that the consumption of nuts powerfully reduces the chance of having a life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. People who have heart disease do not always die of heart attacks; they die of an irregular heartbeat that prevents the heart from pumping properly. Removing nuts and seeds from one’s diet may actually increase the risk of one of these fatal rhythm disturbances.

Witnessing success

During my 16 years of medical practice, the most common reasons patients have come to see me have been high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, angina, diabetes, and being overweight. People following my nutritional advice have seen dramatic improvements in their conditions. They have lost weight, their blood pressure and cholesterol have normalized,and their atherosclerosis has reversed itself in impressive and often dramatic fashion. All of these individuals were advised to include raw nuts and seeds in their diets.

Warning/Disclaimer: Before adopting any kind of diet or medical program, please consult your doctor. This educational material is for informational purposes only, and is no substitute for a physician's consultation and/or examination.


1. Hu FB; Stampfer MJ. Nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 1999 Nov; 1(3): 204-9.

2. Mukuddem-Petersen J; Oosthuizen W; Jerling JC. A systematic review of the effects of nuts on blood lipid profiles in humans. J Nutr. 2005; 135(9): 2082-9.

3. Lamarche B; Desroche S; Jenkins DJ; et al. Combined effects of a dietary portfolio of plant sterols, vegetable protein, viscous fiber and almonds on LDL particle size. Br J Nutr. 2004: 92(4):654-63.

4. Cerda B; Tomas-Barberan FA; Espan JC. Metabolism of antioxidant and chemopreventive ellagitannins from strawberries, raspberries, walnuts, and oak-aged wine in humans: identification of biomarkers and individual variability. J Agric Food Chem. 2005; 53(2):227-35.

5. Ros E; Naatez I; Parez-Heras A; et al. A walnut diet improves endothelial function in hypercholesterolemic subjects: a randomized crossover trial. Circulation. 2004; 109(13):1609-14.

6. Ellsworth JL; Kushi LH; Folsom AR. Frequent nut intake and risk of death from coronary heart disease and all causes in postmenopausal women: the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2001; 11(6):372-7.

7. Yuen AW; Sander JW. Is omega-3 fatty acid deficiency a factor contributing to refractory seizures and SUDEP? A hypothesis. Seizure. 2004; Mar 13(2): 104-7.

8. Albert CM; Gaziano JM; Willett WC; Manson JE. Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians’ Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 2002; 162(12):1382-7.

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Copyright and Reprint Information - All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins, but may be used with proper credit and link back to the website, Articles written by Donna L. Watkins may also be reprinted with proper credit and link back to the website,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Nature In Us Newsletter - 8/15/15

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The Nature In Us Newsletter
August 15, 2015
By Donna L. Watkins

 "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

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Hello Dear Friends!

View Enlarged Image
White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird on Nest
at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica

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View All Galleries of Costa Rica Trips
Hummingbirds - First let me state that the photos here are NOT Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I took these photos in Costa Rica at La Selva Biological Station in 2008.  I couldn't resist showing it since it's rare to get to see these nests because they're so small.  I've never been able to find "our" hummingbird nest here or in Alabama.

We have the Ruby-throated Hummingbird here every year.  There are several males and females.  The males continually chase each other away especially if they have established a territory with a feeder. The female will prepare her nest before mating and the preferred nesting area is near the edge of a main tree branch that slopes downward. The nest is below a leaf canopy and on top of an open area.

This nest was located only about 10 feet in from an open grassed area with many flowers for nectar and insect collection.  They use spider webs, bud scales, plant material and pine resin.  I don't think there were pine trees in this jungle area of Costa Rica, but they do have them in the higher elevations. The outside of the nest is decorated with lichens and strengthened with spider webbing and other sticky material, giving it an elastic quality which allows it to stretch to double its size as the chicks grow and need more room. It's lined with plant down (often dandelion or thistle down here in USA), animal hair and/or feather down. After completing her nest, the female is ready to accept suitors.

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Two White Eggs in White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird
Nest at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica

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When a female hummingbird comes by the male, he will show off to tell her he's the best mate. If she approves of his display, she will mate with him. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are solitary and only come together to mate. They typically breed between March through August, with peak breeding season being mid-May.  In other hummingbird species, the male does aerial displays, but with the Ruby-throated it’s the female that leads this ritual. Hummingbirds do not mate for life or stay together as a pair. After mating, the male leaves and mates with other females. Female hummingbirds will defend their territories against other females during a short period prior to laying eggs.

When it's time for the female to lay her eggs she will sit on the nest, quiver and wriggle her body every few seconds and  will usually lay only 2 eggs.   The eggs are small as a pea or jellybean and white.   She may lay her eggs on two different days, but the eggs hatch out at the same time she doesn't start the incubation period (about 10-14 days) until the second egg is laid. She incubates and feeds the hatchlings on her own. Newly hatched hummingbirds are blind and naked. At about 3 weeks old, they are ready to leave their nest. At age one year old, they can start breeding themselves. Ruby-throats can produce up to 3 broods every year.

Ruby-throats are intensely inquisitive and easily attracted to feeders, where males in particular typically display aggressive territoriality toward rival hummers, other birds, and even insects. A female will tolerate her own young at her favorite feeder for a short time after fledging, but will soon treat them as rivals. They quickly become accustomed to human presence, and will swoop down to investigate anything being worn that is red, considering it a possible food source. A bird that claims a feeder as its territory spends much of the day perched nearby, guarding it against intruders. The Ruby-throats primarily feed on nectar taken from over 30 plant species - favoring those with red, long, tubular flowers. They typically choose flowers with the highest sugar content. They use their long, straw-like tongues to retrieve the nectar while hovering, licking at the nectar up to 13 times per second. Learn more about White-necked Jacobin Hummingbirds.

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House Wren in Firethorn Bush (Pyracantha)
See More Wren Photos
Our Birds - Our Cardinal family is doing well.  We can see the nest from the window with the parents perching on the tall and large Polk Weed plant that covers part of that window.   The plant itself is a blessing to the birds since it produces juicy berries that they love.  [Read more about Poke Weed

We've got some really loud Blue Jay babies flying around.  It seems they are trying to out-scream each other.  Just like children, eh?  They are so pretty as they fill in those bright blue colors and try to figure life things out in this brave new world they've entered into.

The House Wrens are now feeding babies and ready to fledge.  They really fuss at me when I go out to get a picture and will not fly to the feeder with the food, so I've not had a chance for a good shot.  But I do delight in being able to get some photos of them now that they're staying close to the birdhouse.  The photo you see here is one where I was waiting for them to feed and they were sitting in the bush waiting for me to leave.  See that stubborn look on its face?  I could easily shoot from inside at the dining room window, but with the sunlight behind the house, all I get is a black outline of the bird against a bright sky.  I've decided to leave them alone to do what they need to do.  It's a delight for me to see them without having a photo.

TIDBIT: Pets - Corn Starch is wonderful for helping to untangle mats and tangles on dogs and cats.  It is harmless and makes grooming so much easier as it lubricates.  Combing, especially with a comb with rotating teeth, is so much easier using corn starch.  Here's an article with 13 Surprising Uses for Cornstarch.

Spiritual - It's incredible the sound of the birds in the morning when I wake up.  It brings an instant smile to my face and I say, "Good morning, Lord!  Another day in Paradise with You."  We have need of no other entertainment than our wildlife shows that run all day long.  The birds are an instant reminder in the morning that we have much to praise the Lord for and that there is always a bit of Paradise in our days if we look for it.

We have the mental struggle of wanting to live further south, but leaving our wildlife habitat here is something I can't imagine.  How we'll ever make that transition I don't know, but I am always in prayer about it.  I would certainly need to know somebody was going to enjoy it and provide the work it takes to keep up with it.  And if that happens then I know God has an even better place after this.  Kinda like the Promised Land!

We will trust in the Lord for a way back south ... and when I hear the birds singing their praises in the morning for the provision that only God can give them (yes, through people that love His Creation).  They don't wake up wondering where their food will come from ... they've been seeing their entire life that there is always provision and are thankful for it.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" -- Matthew 6:26-27

Did you notice that question?  Are you not more valuable than they?  We are so valuable to God.  We are created in His image and we are a joint heir with Jesus.  None of us spend enough time dwelling on that!  If we really knew how much we meant to God, we'd be covered in blessings, because it's the love of God that draws us to Him and connects in relationship and receives what He has already provided for us in Christ's death and resurrection.  [Listen to audio:  Valuable You]

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 Silver-spotted Skipper and Carpenter Bee
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Butterflies - It's been butterfly month here for sure.  The Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia davidii) are in full bloom and the butterflies are loving it.  I saw our first Monarch on August 2nd.  I went out briefly to photograph it and also took photos of a Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and a Silver-spotted Skipper which you see to the right.  We get a lot of the Swallowtails.  It's Virginia's state butterfly, seemingly well chosen for sure.  We may not see all the species we usually do in any given year, but we've always had the big yellow Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.  They've been all over the Joe Pye Weed that is planted at the rain spout between the screened porch and deck.  They love water.

I'd like to share part of the information I received from Chip Taylor at Monarch Watch.  It's encouraging news this year for the Monarchs.
"The number of reports of sightings has increased over the last few weeks and there have been reports of eggs – lots of eggs – mostly in the regions previously identified as likely to have a good migration (Dakotas to Michigan). The number of eggs found and the distribution of these finds now leads me to suspect that the migration through the upper Midwest will be better than any migration seen since 2011. This is good news since the tagging, isotope and observational data suggest that more than 90% of the monarchs reaching Mexico originate in this region. 

Most of the butterflies join the migration from late August through early October as it moves progressively southward starting about the 10th of August at 50N (Winnipeg). The 45-day forecast is also encouraging since it suggests that temperatures will be favorable for the development of the migratory generation.  It will be a battle but we need to get the overwintering numbers [in Mexico] up to at least 4 hectares [almost 10 acres]  in the coming yearsIt will require a massive effort to restore milkweeds in the milkweed/monarch corridor that extends from Texas through Minnesota. PLANT MILKWEED!"
  Get more detailed information.
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Driveway Kept Free of Weeds Without Poisons
Gardening - Dubai Miracle Garden sets a momentous world recognition of the garden declared as the “Largest Vertical Garden” in the World by the Guinness. This breathtaking garden called “piece of Eden” will continue to stun visitors with millions of blooming flowers having different artistic design each season.  This is a rainbow-colored oasis with 45 million flowers is in the middle of a desert which are watered by a system that recycles waste water while avoiding evaporation.  There is a multitude of shaped archways, flowerbeds and structures to be seen at the 18-acre site.  View some photos here in their gallery.

Simple Weed Removal - We've used salt for many years on our gravel driveway to keep the weeds out.  We would buy 25# bag but every time we did it we'd have to chop down the salt since the moisture in the garage over time would turn it into a rock.  This year we had a lot to do on the driveway since Randal hasn't been able to keep up with everything in a timely fashion since he's without the gardener that dedicated parts of every day to "something outside to do." 

Vinegar works just as well as salt and since we have found a discount place to buy such things, we picked up a few gallons of white vinegar at $1.99 a gallon.  Now Randal just pours a gallon of vinegar into his garden sprayer that we've never used chemicals in and squirts all the leaves on the driveway and down into the roots.  It takes about 2-3 days depending on weather conditions.  Then they're brown and dead.

Of course if you've got weeds that have already gone to seed, you'll see some next year to do again.  Get them before they bloom and you won't have so many.  Not all seeds bloom the next year, sometimes they remain there for years ... but as you can see, it would mean less and less seeds and little to do after you begin getting them under control.  Get a couple more ideas.

View Enlarged Image
Black Rat Snake at Porch Walkway
View More Snake Photos
Critters - About a week ago, we began seeing some baby Five-lined Skinks on the deck.  They remind me of the squirrels since they chase each other all over the place like the young squirrels do.  They seem to delight just in the joy of life.  We all need to take time to play! 

But the excitement of the summer has been to get to pet a Black Rat Snake.  I was sitting on the walkway in front of our house to clean up a couple of plants there and didn't even realize that there was a Black Rat Snake only 3.5 feet away.  It was perfectly still.  I had seen a branch out of the corner of my eye, but it turned out not to be a branch. Fortunately I had my camera and got to take pictures and videos.  I snapped a shot of my hand petting him.  I love the feel of a snake and I wanted to pick him up, but I'm sure there's still that old fear implanted somewhere in my early life that made me not do it. But I'm one step closer!

Here's a couple of video links of the snake:
#1 Video of Snake
#2 Video of Snake

I'm sure that it's stressful to the snake.  Black Rat Snakes are very docile snakes and are not aggressive unless they are threatened and you can get really close to them, so what they consider aggressive is a direct attack.  One year I was trimming some huge bushes with the loppers inside the bush and as I leaned under the bush to see where to cut there was a black "water hose" amongst the branches and just as I was saying, "Who put that there?" I realized it was a snake.  He had not moved even though I'd been pruning all around him.

Don't mind having somebody pass me a snake that is already being held so I don't have to figure out how to pick it up.  I did that in Singapore when a guy had an Albino Ball Python around his neck.  I asked if I could hold it and he passed it on to me and it was so heavy I automatically put it around my neck so I wouldn't drop it.  View the photo of me with the python snake.

I also don't mind baby snakes like this one in my hand which is a Baby Northern Water Snake.

TIDBIT: Fast Foods - Chipotle has unseated Subway as America's healthy fast food of choice says Business Insider UK: Chipotle has removed GMOs from its ingredients this year, but Subway is dragging its feet. While Chipotle enjoys consistent sales growth, Subway, which arguably invented the idea of "fresh" fast food two decades ago, is facing a steep decline. Subway's U.S. sales last year fell by 3%.

"What Americans see as healthy has evolved. Subway hasn't," Drew Harwell at The Washington Post writes. Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President at food industry research firm Technomic, adds, “Millennials care less about calories and more about where their food comes from.”  Actually, we ALL care where our food comes from.  America doesn't want “food” from Monsanto. Period.  More details on the new thinking that where the food comes from is more important than calories.

Closing - For those with children summer is almost over.  The school year seems to dictate that and many schools are starting earlier each year.  I hope you've made some special memories with your family this summer.  There's still time .... and of course Fall is on the way which will provide plenty of lovely days to get out in Creation and experience the peace and joy of it all.  We really need to take more time for ourselves - to value ourself as God sees us.  We are made in His image.  I mentioned an audio series above called Valuable You.  You can download all 4 segments.  Find time to listen and ponder the message.  Don't let life slip by you!

"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering." -- Saint Augustine

Donna at Norfolk Botanical Gardens

May God's Blessings Surround You Every Day!

P.S. Anything in here that might help somebody you know?   

Here's a link to the online version of this newsletter. Click on it and on the left sidebar there will be an option to share in various ways.

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written by Donna

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Copyright and Reprint Information - All photos remain the property of Donna L. Watkins, but may be used with proper credit and link back to the website, Articles written by Donna L. Watkins may also be reprinted with proper credit and link back to the website,

Friday, August 7, 2015

Changing Your Heart

by Donna L. Watkins

Somebody suggested I read through the book of Proverbs focusing on every Scripture that had the word fool in it ... or foolish, foolishness, etc. What a revelation that was as I looked up the meaning of the word fool in Hebrew and pondered each verse that I found, taking notes as to how God was saying it applied to me.

Take the challenge ... it will be a wonderful journey. Don't rush through it as a project. Reading the Bible through in a year may get you a gold star, but if you are not a different person at the end of that year, you've not applied it to your mind or heart.

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"Just when the caterpillar thought the world 
was coming to an end, it became a butterfly."
Lewis-Ginter Botanical Garden Photo Album
When I accepted Jesus as Savior I wasn't discipled which is what Jesus indicated was the priority for believers. And as we became discipled we were to disciple others. The church I entered into used the salvation altar call as more of a way to get your ticket to Heaven and then sell more tickets to others around you by knocking on doors to ask people if they died that night, would they go to Heaven. We won't get into some of the laws and doctrines of the church, but suffice it to say, my heart and mind were not filled with the grace message that Jesus came to give us.

So as I began to learn truth it was easy to blame the church for making my heart so messed up, but in reality God would've always been gently calling me unto Himself for relationship. He created us for relationship. He wanted to have a family of adopted children. He is always speaking to us, but we get our minds so filled with information that we can't hear His still small voice.

Even memorized Scripture can be a block to our maturing in Christ if it's used simply as reciting it like a poem. God gave us His Word to hide within our heart. To ponder it, to chew on it, to ask Him how each verse applies to me, as I did when going through Proverbs on the subject of fools.

The church was not the problem. I wasn't listening to the Spirit within me. My pride and opinions of truth held me where I was. All of my righteous works to earn God's favor were truly as filthy rags. It's only when we get to a place we can't fix everything, or learn to live with it, that we realize that in ourselves we can do nothing at all. That brings you to the end of your rope as they say, but the patterns that I had been living by were deeply ingrained. In reality we are dead in Christ, but like a horror movie, I sat up in the coffin far too often and declared life again in ME (usually when I thought I had found another way that I might get the problem solved).

When I truly die and let Christ be my Lord, grace empowers me to keep my tongue planted in honey and it changes things. God showed me how much I used to argue and have to be "right" with my husband and son. Those were the days of "rush-rush" with too many tasks for a day's time, although looking back on that ... not all of those tasks should've been a priority in my life. Many were opportunities the devil gave me to choose life or death and I chose death.

As I changed and began to choose life, I saw that peace reigned more and more. Relying on God's grace to do this through me, has brought me a long way recently. It's in HIS strength that I can do it, not my own, which is a paradigm shift.  It can be a long road.  As they say, "It took a lot of years for you to get here, it will take some time to get out."

I had formed a pattern of believing what was spoken to me without taking the responsibility to prove it out from the Bible myself. With all the online tools, it's easy to use concordances and get Hebrew and Greek words translated into true meanings. I already believed that the Bible was the written Word of God, so that wasn't a hurdle I had to climb.

It has totally floored me to realize how many people don't think the Bible is relevant for today. Like God's words to us are too old-fashioned and outdated? If we can't believe that the Bible is true and has everything we could ever need in it for life and godliness, we are truly hanging out on a limb.  How can we believe in the God who inspired men to write it? 

That reminds me of a little story that tells of a man that falls off a cliff and is hanging from a branch that he caught hold of on the way down. He screams for help again and again and suddenly hears a voice telling him that He is God, so he again asks for help and the voice says, "Let go." He is stunned and after a few moments begins to yell for help again, "Is anybody else up there?" We'd like to have things line up with our own way of thinking and much too often that doesn't match the Bible.

There is much that I still don't fully understand, but I read of an example of a man who had been saved out of drugs, alcohol and a very sin-filled life. He didn't feel he had anything to offer to God, but He told Him if He wanted him, He could have what was left of his life.  He had some weird relatives that claimed to be Christians with some really weird beliefs and thoughts about God, so he never wanted any part of it. So he told God that he wanted to know Him through His Word and if it wasn't in there, he would not believe it.

He began reading the Bible asking for revelation of how to apply it to his life. Many times, he would get down on his knees and say, “God, I really do not know what this means, but You say to believe it and I will believe it. You will have to help me understand what it means.” That is repentance! The definition of repentance is "to change your mind." We change our mind, our opinion, our point of view.

That is so simple, yet so profound. It takes the responsibility off of us where it will never work since our own works are worthless ... and puts it on God who through grace changes our hearts as we choose to renew our minds ... but it's through HIM that we do this. Most of us have lived our lives so dependent on our own wits and opinions. What a time it has and is taking to break that habit.

For me it's been over three years since I got a true understanding of the grace message that Jesus brought to us. Looking back God's been faithful to guide as I yielded to him without any opinions or judgments of my own. I stopped having to be right.

It's so incredible to me how God has led me through everything I needed step-by-step as I listened and obeyed. From one teacher to the next teacher. At first I thought it was all about information ... and we do need to have the correct knowledge about God ... but it's what we EXPERIENCE that changes our heart and that's the ONLY WAY to do it.

Our heart get filled with beliefs from the time we're born. When you combine some kind of information with emotion, it lays a footprint on the table of your heart and if it's not Truth, we will respond to life through false knowledge. As small children we don't have reasoning to even process our circumstances soundly, but we certainly gather a lot of information and many times with much emotion attached to it.

We have to take it to another level than just understanding and knowing about something. I've wanted to ask God why it took so long to begin this renewal, but I already know the answer which I mentioned above. My heart was not ready to receive it. "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart" (Ephesians 4:18 ).

God knows our frame and fits our plan and purpose into it. I am just so blessed and thrilled that He continues to take and keep me on this road. What other choice is there when you know you can have all the promises of God and live in His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven? How can you give up and dry up? It's like a slow suicide if you do.

This is what Jesus told his disciples when asked why He spoke in parables: "Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them’" (Matthew 13:14-15).

They obviously heard with their physical ears and eyes. He was talking about seeing and hearing from the heart. Which I also think is what we're supposed to do when we get offended by what somebody says or does "to" us. If we look at people as God sees them in love ... from our hearts ... we can see that they are acting from an area of hurt/pain in their lives ... just as we are when we react. But in Christ we have the power to be different if we choose.

When we speak only blessings or keep our mouth shut and don't use facial expressions when thoughts are not edifying ... we can begin to see things turn around in relationships.  I've had the joy of seeing this come to pass.  I had so many years of speaking evil about people in simple ways, but when you boldly ask yourself whether what you said would be a blessing or curse ... it leaves no room for a slow response. This is often the weakness of parents who have wayward children doing things that don't fit "the way we raised them."  Instead of speaking God's blessings over them to change their life, we speak what we see and continue to reinforce it with our thoughts and imaginations.

Oh! how good and gracious and merciful our God is. I love it when we speak life and then see it coming back as life to our own lives. I just don't want to participate in the devil's kingdom any more. Christ is so powerful and we access that power when we stay IN CHRIST and live through grace and when we sin, we quickly confess it to the Lord and remember the forgiveness provided by Christ and move on.

Don't be a fool ... it's definitely not cool! Consider what's at stake. Do you want life to continue the same way ... or are you up for a change? If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll get the same results. How about asking God where to begin to change your heart?

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How to Avoid 7 Common Dehydration Symptoms

By Dan Bischoff

Since water makes up between 50 and 75 percent of your body, it’s no surprise that running low on this vital element can be dangerous and even fatal.

Dehydration occurs when the amount of fluids (mostly water) leaving your body exceeds the amount of fluids you’re taking in. That’s why you often feel very thirsty after a big workout, during which your body loses fluids to sweat before you can stop and replace them.

While most dehydration is mild to moderate, severe dehydration can cause delirium and loss of consciousness. But the good news is that nearly all forms of dehydration are preventable – you just need to know what dehydration symptoms to watch out for.

Make sure you and your family stay out of the danger zone by understanding the signs of dehydration and knowing what to do to make sure your body has all the fluids it needs.

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