Just before you

Some of the prettiest flowers I saw in England were not in gardens, but on the streets.
Burford, Oxfordshire, June 2017

“The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”Robert Louis Stevenson

One year ago today, Jeff said his final goodbyes to us, and we to him, and he closed his eyes and drifted into the sleep that would end in his death less than 30 hours later. As I think of him today, this quote seems a fitting remembrance of how he lived his life. He understood the wisdom that Stevenson expresses in these words. Like all of us, he sometimes grew weary of the demands that never seemed to stop coming, but I never doubted his devotion to the “daily duties and daily bread that are the sweetest things in life.”

What daily blessings will we give and take today? What sweetness might go unnoticed because we have grown accustomed to it? May we begin and end our waking hours with the understanding that this time is a gift, however ordinary the wrappings may be.



  1. Hugs, Julia!

    • Thank you, Bindu! ❤

  2. Heba

    Hello Julia,

    Your posts seem to always be one of my daily blessings!
    How easy is it to we let the daily gifts slip away while we only focus on problems and worries.
    Hope we learn to become more thankful, stronger and content.

    Have a wonderful day!

    • Thank you Heba, it’s always a joy to see you here. Yes, the problems tend to steal all our energy and joy. Surely being more thankful, stronger and content are among the best ways to keep our worries from taking over our lives. I’m so happy you consider my posts a blessing! I wish you an abundance of blessings for every day. ❤

      • Heba

        Thank you very much! Wish you the same and much more my dear Julia 3>
        Peace & blessings ^_^

        • ❤ 🙂 ❤

  3. Good morning, Julia!
    There go those flowers again, all dressed up and looking pretty! All we have to do is LOOK.
    Thank you for sharing your walks with us; both your walks around the block and around England, and also your walk through life.
    You have made me richer for it all!
    God bless you. Love and hugs!

    • Thank you Susan, I so appreciate your encouragement. I know that you often see the world, as I do, through a camera lens. I believe that sharpens our vision with and without the camera. Love and hugs right back to you! ❤

  4. Sending big hugs. One year has already passed? Thinking of you xoxo

    • Yes, Misifusa, a whole year. It seems shorter in one sense, because Jeff’s funeral, as most Arlington funerals, was delayed by several months. For me, this has been the loneliest and most unrelentingly difficult year of my life, no doubt about that. Yet I am blessed to be alive at all, which I try to remind myself on even the worst days. Thanks for being here, and for continuing to SHINE ON! 🙂

      • Keep shining dear Julia! You are a beacon of hope to us all xo

        • Thank you so much, Misifusa! Shine on! ❤

      • Julia, how I wish I could reach across the miles and offer comfort and support beyond a few words here. Such a difficult time in your life. Sending love and light.

        • Thank you, Alys. I was so happy to get your letter. LOTS to talk about- we must catch up sometime soon. Hope you have a lovely weekend.

  5. Chris

    Absolutely beautiful, Julia! Every day is a gift from God. Knowing that, I pray each will live it out in such a manner that will bear witness and bring fruit to the Kingdom.

    • Thank you, Chris! Some of these gifts are more obviously beautiful than others, but all are truly gifts. I really believe that.

  6. Amy Hill

    Have you seen that Peanuts strip with Snoopy and Charlie Brown sitting on a dock and Charlie Brown says, “Someday Snoopy, we are all going to die.” and Snoopy says, “True but on all the other days we will not.” That’s how life is isn’t it. We all have to live the life God intended us to live. He is there for us. He wants us to be joyful in him even when the road ahead is difficult. 2 Cor 12.9-10 I love you.

    • Thank you, Amy. I love you too and am so grateful for your friendship.

  7. Cherie

    Sweet Julia, my heart reaches out to you! I am going through a stressful time right now too. These doctors can’t seem to get the referral process going and Ron is needing more surgery. Oh how our healthcare system is broken. Please keep Ron and I in your prayers! You and Matt are always in mine. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie. You and Ron are in our prayers, and I am praying especially for Ron’s recent health issues. Yes, the referral system is MADDENING and seemingly cannot be rushed even when people are seriously ill and even dying. The scientific aspects of medical care have evolved much faster than the infrastructure to deal with it. Critical illness is a TERRIBLE time to be tangled up in bureaucratic nightmares. Extra prayers being sent!! Love and hugs– thanks for being here.

  8. Amen, Julia. No one knows the time God has allotted them.

    • Thank God for that, right? As long as we are mindful of our own mortality, it’s mostly best not to see the future, I think.

      • Right, Julia. Although we can have some idea of the future. Because we have a hand in fashioning it by how we live our present.

        • Good point. So often, I tend to fall prey to the “all or nothing thinking” error, where I think “I didn’t accomplish anything with all that effort!” or “nothing I do ever changes things.” It’s easy to be blinded to partial success if one is focused on the disappointments. I think that’s why It’s a Wonderful Life is such a perennial favorite. I bet most people see aspects of themselves in George Bailey.

          • We are all George Baileys at times. Everyone has had grand dreams that have been sidelined by responsibility. That doesn’t mean that one cannot find fulfillment in responsibility.

            • That’s true, Alan. Responsibility is an underappreciated aspect of life, probably because it does tend to put flashier goals on the back burner. But as a quote I had on my fridge door for many years says, “To be happy, don’t do whatever you like; like whatever you do!” 🙂

  9. Carolyn

    I can’t believe that it has been a year today and tomorrow. My thoughts are with you and the family. Just remember that you have so many friends here for you. Mine and Jeff’s five year reunion never came but one day we will all be together. Just happy that my five year came and now I start on six. Still feeling good . Julia, we will always stay in touch and remember our time together here in Bartlett. Love to you, Matt, and Drew and family. Lots of hugs.

    • Thank you Carolyn. I am so happy that you did reach that 5-year milestone, and that some of our stories do have happy endings. As you say, we are hoping for the biggest “happily ever after” to come. Thanks for being with us now and always. Love to you both!

  10. Mike

    Hey my Mandevilla has two new blossoms. Not sure how long they will last as it was 45 degrees this AM. The hummingbirds hang out around it all day. I assume it has long lost its nectar, yet they remain. The Dianthus” Purple Oscar” is still blooming and has one of the best scents ever for a carnation hybrid. It has bloomed all summer. Plants give so much and expect so little.

    • Mike, this must be a good year for Mandevillas. Both of mine (Alexandria and York) are going strong and covered with blooms. My Dipladenia in Alexandria continues to bloom profusely as it has all summer. Of course, we have had very warm weather except for the one cool snap. I saw one hummingbird darting briefly around those trumpet shaped blooms which they love so much. I didn’t realize any Dianthus could have a scent. I haven’t had much luck with them anyplace I’ve tried to grow them, but I love the way they look. Yes, plants are wonderful additions to any home. Some are hardier than others, but even those that don’t last usually make up for it during their short lives.

  11. Harry Sims

    I want you to read this.
    I want you to understand what the author of Ecclesiastes meant when he said, “Meaningless, Meaningless – Everything Is Meaningless”.
    At first blush tells me that life is not worth a damn.
    And if so why all this effort?
    Why hone in on the gospel about the Beautiful Kingdom.

    I believe this marvelous exegesis helps us to understand.



    • Harry Sims

      He uttered a cryptic comment.
      He said, “This is the calm before the storm”.

      I didn’t know what cryptic means until I looked it up and did a little research and came to the conclusion it’s an expression of mystery’s process. It is a leading into the consciousness of mystery all around us. God is certainly mysterious.
      Much in his holy script is mysterious.
      Our life, our experiences, our strength and our hope are mysterious.
      We don’t know where they come from.
      We don’t know where they are going.

      Above is an example of deep cripticism.

      Care to enter?

      • Harry, I think people are beginning to wake up to the fact that all the science in the world (useful and beneficial as it may be) will never explain or eliminate the mysteries of this life. Facts and formulas will only take us so far. The wonderful thing about spirituality is that ultimately it embraces mystery as something to celebrate, and the acceptance of mystery beyond our comprehension is, perhaps, the beginning of a form of humility that most of us would certainly do well to cultivate.

    • Harry, that is a good devotional. I love the book of Ecclesiastes because I see such wisdom in it. I know a lot of people say it’s depressing but it’s not so to me. It is ultimately a very hopeful book. Interspersed between the hard realism and truth of the observations about the meaningless aspects of life, we find gems such as this passage: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13). Despite the brevity and fragility of life “under the sun,” the author pays tribute to its incredible beauty. The older I get, the more sense Ecclesiastes makes, and the more my own observations match its truth, and the more the sting of death is rendered powerless in the vast picture.

  12. Ann

    “What sweetness might go unnoticed because we have become accustomed to it?”

    That thought will be with me today. Thanks for reminding me.

    • Thank you, Ann. I’m glad. 🙂

  13. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. This is such a beautiful, heartfelt remembrance of such a special man. You shared so much about Jeff over the years, that we came to know him and somehow experience those days of despair, but also hope. I’m so glad that we were included and could attend Jeff’s service. May this day have a special sunbeam for you and in the days to come! 💛 Love to you and Matt. 💛

    • Thank you, Sheila. I am so happy you were able to be with us at Jeff’s burial. I will always treasure the memory of meeting you there. I hope we will be together again soon before too long, but meanwhile I know we will continue to meet in spirit! Love you!

  14. Lydia

    Your name comes often to mind and I say a prayer for you and Matt. You are brave, courageous, inspiring, a beacon of light. Even in your darkest hours your spirit shines. May the Lord continue strengthening your faith and giving you that deep appreciation of the beauty that comes from Him.

    • Thank you, Lydia. I am honored that you think of us. Matt and I need and appreciate your prayers. Reading your kind words about me, I think to myself how often I feel as if I am none of those lovely things. The best I can hope for is to be a mirror reflecting light from other sources. Thanks for being here with us.

  15. Good morning, Julia!
    I wanted to share an experience that I have had more than once at my church, in Nashua, NH, especially during our after choir rehearsal. I look around and really notice the wonderful souls that are with me on this journey. It’s like I step out of the present, to look at it.
    It reminds me of a scene from Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. Emily has passed away and is looking back at a moment in her life, and realizes how we drift through so much of life, unaware. As she revisits a scene from a birthday morning long ago, she pleads with her mother to “just look at me,” to really, really look. It never happens, and so Emily asks the Stage Manager, “”Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”
    To this, the Stage Manager responds, “No. Saints and poets, maybe … they do, some.”
    So back in high school, when our youth group performed this play, I decided that I would try to “realize life,” at least some of the time.
    I’m certainly not a Saint (but maybe I’m “a poet but don’t know it!” LOL), but it is SO worth it to step back and really look, from time to time.
    Hugs to you – I know that you’ve been “present in the moment” a good deal, too.
    Your reflections show it. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susan. It’s been many years since I saw Our Town but I remembered that scene as you described it. Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine has a similar theme. Boy, what a four-hankie play that is!!! Remind me to tell you sometime about the short but sweet discussion of the play I had with the author himself, who happened to be in the audience as guest of honor the night Jeff and I saw it. I do enjoy really looking at people, in church especially, but also at the store, or on the public bus or other places where I’m surrounded by others. Most people are endearing in some way, and some are totally captivating. It’s hard to feel alone in my loneliness when I look at others and realize that each of us is a different galaxy of thoughts and experiences, set in a common universe that is not completely friendly at times.

  16. LB

    Julia, you have survived this year with grace and honesty and dignity.
    That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been overwhelming and terrible and sad times.
    You are a survivor, my friend, and I do love that quote.

    • Thank you, LB – I appreciate your encouragement and your friendship! ❤

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