As the magnet finds iron

Inconvenient, even dangerous, but also beautiful; a December 2004 snowstorm.

Inconvenient, even dangerous, but also beautiful; a December 2004 snowstorm.

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” Henry Ward Beecher

As I write this, two weeks before publication, much of the country is in the grip of yet another fierce winter storm.  This is especially difficult for those in the south, where such weather is far from typical.

Hundreds of thousands of people (including my parents) are without power.  I worry about them, and about people who have emergencies that require them to be on the road in dangerous conditions. I am dismayed to think of the storm-related deaths that likely will be reported by the news.  I feel sympathy for stranded travelers whose flights are cancelled or delayed.  I hate to think about the inevitable financial fallout associated with such weather, as work schedules are curtailed for those on hourly pay, and heating expenses rise.

Yet, as always, there is much to be thankful for.  This morning we saw our neighbor (who knows Jeff is fighting cancer) shoveling the snow outside our home, giving valuable help without waiting to be asked.  I know there are countless others who are acting as Good Samaritans in these adverse circumstances, helping friends, neighbors or strangers with no thought of getting anything in return.

I’m thankful that my brother Al is there with Mom and Dad, available to help with tasks they are unable to do. I’m thankful for the competence and dedication of emergency professionals such as Michael’s son in Atlanta, who are on call to respond when needed.  I’m thankful that Jeff was taught how to disconnect his chemo IV from his port here at home, making a long risky trip to Bethesda unnecessary, enabling him to be here at home with us today, safe and sound.

By the time this post is published, I hope that most of the country will be nearing the end of this exceptionally rough winter.  But those in regions farther north still have many weeks of cold weather to get through before spring arrives.  Whether you are bracing for more storms, or seeing the first hopeful signs of winter’s end, I hope your heart can sweep through the day today and find heavenly blessings that will bring you hope and joy!

One year ago today:

Give thanks


  1. sarvjit

    A loving heart is the truest wisdom.

    • Yes, Jesus taught that all the commandments can be summed up in the command to love God and our neighbors. Not easy, but simple.

  2. That’s horrible. I hope things have improved by now. These days when we are too much dependent on the facilities available any sort of disruption is unbearable and even detrimental. Take care! With prayers…

    • Thanks Bindu, everyone survived the weather quite well and my folks even managed to get some alternative heating methods going before the power was restored. We are indeed so dependent on these conveniences. Perhaps a power outage now and then can be a good thing, to keep us on our toes, though I do worry most about those who are sick or otherwise unable to take care of themselves. That’s where good neighbors are such a blessing!

  3. Very beautiful winter photo.

    • Thank you, Sartenada! Your blog has some beautiful and interesting photos. Scandinavia is near the top of my list of places I hope to visit someday. I appreciate your visits here!

  4. I am thankful that you can see all the good things and people around you. I pray for you and your family daily, I also pray for many others. My sister passed away twenty days ago, I am thankful that she is not suffering any more, but she took a piece of my heart with her to remember me by.

    • Oh Patricia, I am so sorry to hear this sad news. I know that the months to come will be very difficult for you. I have always told my own sister that I can’t imagine living in a world without her in it. I will pray for you that you find comfort and consolation during this time of sorrow. Thanks so much for your prayers for us. Prayers are how we have survived. Thanks for being here! I believe many others who see your comment will pray for you as well.

  5. michael

    Supposed to be 50 degrees? in Atlanta today. Will be a welcome break and got up to 56 degrees yesterday in Seattle. Spring is flirting with us, again.
    Todays blog in UR has discussion by Virginia Jellenek on despair vs. joy and she likens “giving in” to negative thoughts to selling our birthright- as Esau did in a moment of temptation. Not sure I totally agree as sometimes a homeopathic approach can also work.
    Watched “Gone with the Wind” last weekend and forgot how long a movie. Interesting comment on Margaret Mitchell who when writing would finish a chapter and put it into a manila envelope. The little apartment -which she called the dump- was filled with these manila folders scattered around. Can you picture that? Don’t know if I mentioned we had our son Michael’s 30th surprise birthday in the Gone with the Wind Museum -in Marietta.

    • Yes, we had temperatures in the high 60’s in York last weekend, and that made me all the more intolerant of the cold when it returned quickly. I have never been to the GWTW museum in Atlanta, but would like to go. I too need to see the movie again, as it’s been at least 40 years since I saw it, but want to read the book first. Interesting thought about a homeopathic approach to negative thoughts. If we really do allow them to activate our defenses against such, they could have that effect, I’m sure. The problem is whether or not our defenses are up to the task. In some people, I think they have the equivalent of a compromised immune system – I know there have been times in my life where I’ve been at that point, and I’m wary of ever being there again. Hope you are having some nice weather again today. Does it rain much in spring in Seattle? Is there ever a dry season there?

  6. MaryAnn

    Love this photo! I can “hear” my steps crunching the snow. The reference you made about love is the Bible passage I am encouraging our small group to memorize. Mark 12:29-31 has long been a favorite of mine. For years, I taught “my” 2’s & 3’s class Mark 12:30, then as they progressed added verse 31.
    It sums up the “how-to” to please God & live a better life.
    I am gleaning huge blessings from our small group for a myriad of reasons, the best watching Paul’s growth in our Lord!
    We had several days of WARM spring-like weather & now lots of rain, with thunderstorms
    predicted…you know I am happy…

    • Mary Ann, it’s great to hear from you, and to hear you and Paul are doing well. You are just coming out of the rainy season now, right? I can imagine how beautiful those green hills look. Wish I could make a quick trip out there, but since I can’t, I’m glad we can at least visit here!

  7. Sheila

    Julia, Bill and I certainly have heavenly blessings today as we look forward to our brother returning to Bristol tonight from his trip to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. I’m sure he returns with a thankful heart for the many blessings bestowed on us every day in this wonderful country. 🙂 I hope Patricia finds comfort knowing that others that read her words really care.

    • Wow, that sounds like quite a trip. I hope he found weather that was warmer than we have here, but I don’t really know what winter is like over there. I’m sure he will have lots of stories to tell. Thanks for your kind words for Patricia, I know many of our readers will be praying for her. I think of you daily (especially when I enjoy seeing my beautiful calendar) and hope you will have a lovely weekend coming up.

      • Sheila

        Julia, it’s hard to believe we turn that calendar to March tomorrow. I always enjoy the new “porch” that we’ll share through the same calendar! Wishing a good weekend for y’all, too. 🙂

        • Sheila, I was going to cheat and turn the calendar page over a day early after I read your message, but I didn’t 🙂 so I will just wait and be surprised. (I looked at them all when I first got it but I don’t remember what comes next.) Hope you have a wonderful March weekend – and yes, you are right, it’s amazing we are already there!

  8. Beautiful winter photo…I can just see you out taking these winter photos. 🙂
    Blessings to you, Jeff and Matt. hope your parents are doing well.

    • Thank you, Merry – I was taking more of them this week here in Alexandria! I took alot of them out the windows and doors so I wouldn’t have to get out in it 🙂 but usually I do have fun when I do. My parents are doing pretty well I think. Jeff and I are trying to come up with a schedule when we can go to see them again. He used to have a dental meeting in Atlanta every year but the military has cut all travel for a couple of years now (budget cuts) and between that and Jeff’s illness it’s been far too long since all three of us got to go. But I think they are doing well and looking forward to spring…vegetable garden season! Hope you have a lovely weekend coming up!

  9. michael

    Hope your folks are doing OK. Homeopathic approach is from Thomas Moore book, ” Care of the soul.” He has a chapter called, “Gifts of Depression.” He has an example of someone going through a depressive period who fully engaged his emotions and over a period of time rallied and reset to a new mind set. But that does not work for everyone, some need chemicals and some don’t have the immune system as you say from the get go.
    Two years ago Seattle had a 65 days dry spell- which set a record.

    • Michael, I may have read that book years ago; it sounds familiar. Is that the one where he discusses the “dark night of the soul?” I do remember him suggesting that we are too quick to try to alleviate or cover our depression, because we can learn from it. I think that can be beneficial if one is keenly aware of one’s own limitations. But ignoring or denying it is dangerous. 65 days is a long time without rain even here on the east coast. I don’t know if we’ve been that long without rain since we’ve lived here. In California we typically would go 8-9 months without it every year. When we first moved here I wasn’t used to needing an umbrella anytime except winter! My folks are doing pretty well, thanks for asking!

  10. michael

    That’s a great quote about magnets and iron. Occasionally when I an smiling unconsciously and look up I will see someone smiling back. So it seems to work in a similar fashion.

    • Yes, moods are definitely contagious, which is why I find it so enjoyable to be around cheerful people. I love to watch anyone who is busy doing a job they obviously love. That kind of joy is like a gift to the world.

  11. michael

    It may be the same book-but he has a couple of others out. Have you read -Anne Dillard’s ” The Writing Life?” She talks about living on an island in the San Juans -not far from Seattle and close to Canada. She met and befriended a geology professor from Western Washington University- Dave Rahm. She has an essay on stunt flying and creativity which you might enjoy. Dave later went on to teach flying to a group of Jordanian pilots. King Hussien was a great stunt flying enthusiast. Turns out Dave was teaching geology at Western while I was there. I left in 72.” It is an interesting essay. Unfortunately, Dave was killed in Jordan during an air show- doing a tricky stunt called a Hammerhead. I remember hearing about his death but did not realize who he was until reading this essay. The San Juans are amazing and last time my daughter in law visited we went on an Orca whale sighting tour and had a stop at Friday Harbor, an enchanting sea side town that has some quaint shops and wonderful old Scandinavian style homes that have been restored.

    • Michael, I think I read The Writing Life many years ago, but if so, I had completely forgotten the part about the stunt flyer, which is surprising. I may even have a copy of that book somewhere – I will have to go back and look it up and re-read that chapter. I am totally unfamiliar with the San Juans but it sounds like a place we would want to see if we make it back to the Northwest. Friday Harbor sounds like just the type of place I’d love to see. We used to go to Solvang a lot when we lived on the central coast, and in fact, my first paid/published travel story and photos were of that town.

  12. michael

    It occurs to me that writing is kind of a lottery. Who knows you might get lucky. Bob Nelson, from Seattle, who just wrote the screen play for Nebraska- which I have not seen yet had an interview on NPR. This was his first screen play. He was a writer for local a T.V. show. He sent his screen play out and got several rejections. A friend of a friend said why not send to someone I know a director. He heard back from the director who said,” No thanks.” He called back a week later to say-“Oh there are two Bob Nelson’s and I do like your script. In fact I will produce it.” This was after he had given up. And now for the movie.

    • Yes, luck does play a large role, but I think the basics have to be there (skill, talent, persistence, practice, and a willingness to be heavily edited, among other things). I enjoyed reading the book Outliers by (who else) Malcolm Gladwell, because it underscores the many factors that have to be in place for people to attain high levels of success. Reading about how the Beatles or Bill Gates ended up where they did is pretty instructive. Much more work goes into such achievements than is generally mentioned in all the hype.

  13. michael

    Another book for my list-” outliers.”

    • Yes, I really enjoyed it.

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