Only the beginning

Carved into stone, a narrow but passable gate.  The Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, March 2013

Carved into stone, a narrow but passable garden gate. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, March 2013

“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”Ivy Baker Priest

Over the past 18 months, I’ve gotten a lot of practice at re-framing how I think about things.  I’ve had to do quite a bit of that for most of my life, but never as much as recently.  It simply doesn’t work for me to see obstacles as dead ends; I start to panic and the anxiety blossoms into multiplied worries and fears, the agitation feeding on itself.

At such times I’ve learned to force myself to switch off the negativity, re-directing my thoughts through prayer, reading or other distractions.  Yet I don’t want to be delusional, kidding myself about what we might be facing in the future.  I don’t want to be blinded by wishful thinking or unprepared for a steep uphill climb.

It helps to focus primarily on the immediate path ahead, with all its unexpected detours and narrowed options.  We may not be traveling the exact itinerary we had planned, but as long as we can see a few feet ahead, that’s enough.  Each threshold we pass through is another beginning, and so far the way has been blessed with abundant beauty no matter how rocky the path gets.

So we travel on in hope, still enjoying the trip.  I hope you are able to do the same in your life. Thanks for walking with us!

One year ago today:

Teach your moods


  1. Jim Beavers

    Julia, although I rarely comment, I look forward to reading your blog each morning. Thank you so much for being there for all of us. Your words today “We may not be traveling the exact itinerary we had planned, but as long as we can see a few feet ahead, that’s enough” were especially meaningful to me.

    • Thank you Jim, I so appreciate your encouraging words. I was thinking about that concept of going only a few feet at a time yesterday, when we were driving through winter storms. At one point (when I was driving – Jeff and I were taking turns) I literally said aloud to myself, “one mile at a time…one mile at a time.” Kept the panic at bay. Thanks so much for being here with us! I hope you have a wonderful week.

  2. Cast all of your care upon Him for He cares for you. Look up!

    • Levi, I always thought I understood that verse, but after the past year, I understand it as never before. Eventually many of us reach a point where we have no choice but to give everything to God, and trust that divine help will always be sufficient for our needs. There’s a relief that comes with that moment of seeming helplessness. I was talking yesterday with one of our elders about our anxiety in waiting to hear from Matt’s cardiology team, and my resolve not to keep pushing, but just wait for their decision. He reminded me, “God is always on time.” A blessed thought! Thanks for being here.

      • You said it very well, He wants us to totally come to that point sometimes when there is no escape except to lean on Christ. I’ll be praying for you and your husband. Have a peaceful day!

        • Thank you so much! We appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.

  3. I hope this day is a blessed one for you and Jeff. I have you all in my prayers. I so very much enjoy the beautiful pictures on your blog and the encouraging words.

    • Thank you so much, Cherie! We so appreciate your prayers, and continue to need them as the road ahead is still quite uncertain. I am so happy you enjoy the blog! I count it a privilege to have you here.

  4. sarvjit

    Lovely! A circle resembles a zero. Zero is nothing. This universe grew from nothing and it is its destiny. So everything that ends has a beginning in the future and it may be a new one. That’s why the important thing in life is to be happy and do what one loves to do.

    • Sarvjit, your comment reminded me of a longtime favorite quote, from a very old book I have called A Child’s Garden of Misinformation, which is a collection of quotes from children’s writing edited by Art Linkletter. Some wise child once wrote: “Just think of what God can make from something when He made this whole world from nothing.” 🙂

  5. Heba

    Wonderful! Totally agree with each and every word 🙂
    Keep up the strong faith!

    • Thank you, Heba! I am always happy to hear from you. I appreciate your encouraging words. Have a lovely week!

  6. raynard

    Julia( as I eat one of these “cup cakes I didnt bake cause I brought from a store( how passe) When we are traveling away, I can feel”the not so closeness and when returning I feel “there’s no place like home or as they say”where your heart is and what you make it. Art Linkletter for me is “up there with “Soup Sales, Red Skelkton and “Mitch Miller:..( I listen to old time radio shows on my ipod).( Do you ever remember listening to Casey Caseem and Wolfman Jack? Radio is still in my blood after growing up on AM and having gotten experience as a dj on a volunteer radio station while stationed in Turkey.

    • Raynard, with the sort of fantastic cupcakes they sell today, they are totally trendy around here. I try not to go near them because all of that frosting would be too tempting and I wouldn’t stop at just one. I used to love watching all of those guys you named from TV, and yes, I remember American Top 40 and Casey Caseem’s stories – and Wolfman Jack’s funny growly laugh. And speaking of DJ’s – did you ever listen to Dr. Demento? My younger brother and I used to listen to him in the early years when he was first on the air. He was as good as anything on TV.

  7. Larry

    We took Gramps and Nannie to the Mount Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Mountains. Your travel yesterday reminded me of that. The fog was so thick we could see two broken stripes on the road ahead. Gramps wanted off that mountain before we even got to the top. He was a nervous a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs at the senior citizens rock-a-thon. The morale of any day is to see only as far as you can and stay focused on what God allows you to see. We enjoy your blog everyday and especially all the wonderful pictures you share from around the world thru your cameras eye. Our Love for you all is always near and our prayers include all of you.

    • Thank you Larry! I never knew James was afraid of mountains. I’m glad he didn’t go to Pike’s Peak with us. That is maybe the second most scared I’ve ever been (the other time having been on a very, very bad flight in a terrible storm for 2 hours). When we got to the top I asked a man at the gift shop “Is there any other way to get down from here besides in a car?” and he said “You wouldn’t believe how many women ask me that!” 🙂 But the trip down had such fantastic views that I forgot to be afraid. I’m the nervous long-tailed cat on mountain roads for sure, though. Even Marin Headlands was a bit much for me at times.

      I’m so happy you like the blog! I never seem to run out of photos or words, and I’m not always sure that’s a good thing. 🙂

  8. Sheila

    Julia, I believe when we combine our hope with faith, it really gives us the catalyst to be able to proceed with a more positive attitude. I’m so glad that we have shared these months. Some days have been better than others, but we’ve developed a most caring friendship. I thank you everyday for enriching our life. 🙂

    • Sheila, you’re welcome! Thank you for all the ways you have brightened our lives (BTW is that March calendar photo dreamy or what?) especially with your steadfast presence here. I finally discovered the email with Walter’s photos today – somehow it got caught in my spam filter – but what a gorgeous fellow he is! Now I want to get a Sun Conure! Tell him he brightened my day! You’re right, these have been some very tough months, but our friendship is one of the nicest things to come out of it! I hope you have gotten at least a small portion of the joy you’ve brought us here.

  9. Sheila

    Julia, I read your email to Walter and Bill. I had to explain the phrase “twins separated at birth” which brought a smile. Bill can’t imagine two of me! Haha. Ditto on the joy! 🙂

    • Hee-hee, that’s why we had to be separated at birth…to spread the wealth and keep from overwhelming our husbands. 😀

  10. Julia, good evening. What an interesting photo! I like it. In fact, I like all your pictures. 🙂
    I have to remind myself… “I only have this day, this minute…enjoy it as much as possible. Don’t think about the things or people you can’t change…love them and go on…
    I know Matt is needing surgery; Jeff is taking his treatments…life is uncertain for you but hang on…we’re hanging with you! 🙂

    • Thank you Merry! I’m so happy you like my photos. I am getting anxious and wondering why the surgeons can’t seem to decide anything about when to operate; I hate to have it hanging over us. BUT, Jeff keeps telling me to relax and be glad for all the time Matt is able to avoid it. He has a whole new understanding of what Matt goes through with these surgeries. So, I’m doing my best to leave it with God and enjoy these days that are hospital-free. Thanks for being here with us! It helps more than you know.

  11. Wonderful. I know exactly who to share this with today. You’re inspiring, Julia.

    • Thank you Alys, I am so happy you know someone who might like to read it. See you at the virtual tea party (Boomdee is getting creative again)!

      • Isn’t that exciting? I’m so glad you two came up with the idea.

        • See you there! 🙂

          • We all enhance each others days so wonderfully. I don’t know if I came up with it but I’m sure it’s going to be crazy fun. Alys and I skyped today and we kept freezing up and getting dropped off. We talked for 2 hours 😀 How many teas can you drink in 2 hours Jules?
            I’m a little late to visit this lovely post but I’m not going in any particular order. I sure did relate to and enjoyed the message. It reminds me to look ahead, over the bumpy road. Sometimes it’s hard to do. Who knows, it might very well be paved up ahead. Much nicer when we can travel together with friends, a soul mate or with our own willpower at times too. I think we try to be ready for bad times, both mentally, physically and financially if at all possible. Yet you never know when life will throw you a curve ball. The past year for you and Jeff is an example of it for sure.

            • Yes, it will be interesting to see how well Skype transmits in group mode from Australia and New Zealand to Virginia and points in between. We used to Skype all the time with Drew back in 2005 when he was at Oxford, but that was before video, it was just voice, and even then there was a few-seconds lag time. One thing I have noticed about evenings is that my speeds are MUCH slower then, no doubt because most of our neighbors are home and there are a lot of folks using bandwidth at the same time. But we’ll see how it goes, it will be fun to try. I’m thinking I may need to make a pot of black and a pot of green so I can keep filling my cup without leaving the table 🙂 since I do drink quite a lot of tea all through the day. At that hour it will have to be mostly decaf or herbal for me, though!

              I agree with you that we need to be prepared for whatever comes, in every respect. We can take care of ourselves physically and financially but still forget that all-important aspect of mental health, which is where our friendships and family (including our pets) are so important! Then when the hard times hit, hopefully we will have something to draw on to get us through.

  12. Carol Hoyos

    Where exactly is this? We’ll be taking our grandson to DC in June and would love to visit this garden. Thank you for your inspirational blog.

    • Hi Carol, thanks for your visit and question. The photo was taken at the Moongate Garden, which is pictured and discussed at the right margin of this linked page (scroll down and keep looking to the right until you get to Moongate Garden). You probably will be able to recognize the aerial view of the gate pictured. The home page at that link has some excellent visitor info about the Smithsonian’s many lovely gardens, which are often overlooked in the shadows of the more famous museums in their midst. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

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