A wayside sacrament

The waterfront at Bar Harbor, Maine, June 2012

The waterfront at Bar Harbor, Maine, June 2012

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”  —Charles Kingsley

Dear readers,

I’m sitting here in the wee hours of the morning after a very active week of packing, closing on the new home, organizing things before the packers came on Thursday, moving some preliminary items into the home this weekend, shopping for window shades, ceiling fans and other additions, and now getting ready for phase one of the move, with today (a few hours hence) being the day all the furniture will be moved from our Alexandria town home to the new home in Potomac Shores. My arms are covered with bruises from bumping into things while carrying too-heavy boxes full of books and other treasures. I’m excited but exhausted. So I haven’t written a blog post this week. Instead of not showing up at all, I decided to re-blog whatever it was I wrote and posted five years ago today, not having the least idea what it might be. Luckily, WordPress never forgets, so here it is.

I was interested to note the common threads between this post and the one I wrote last week. Kingsley was clearly recognizing the “beautiful lessons” Oliver spoke of in the quote from last week’s post. I hope you enjoy this re-blogged post today, again or for the first time. Thanks for your patience with me during yet another major transition. This one, hopefully, will be a happier one than most of the ones I’ve endured since I first wrote this post.

Travel is one of my favorite ways of searching for lovely sights, but it’s not necessary to be in a gorgeous town such as Bar Harbor to catch glimpses of beauty.  As Kingsley’s quote implies, it’s all around us if we welcome it.

Two practices have helped me feed my soul with beauty: walking, and taking photos.  With the advent of digital photography, taking pictures is practically as inexpensive as walking.  I hope you will welcome beauty wherever you find it, but today I especially encourage you to wander outdoors in search of “wayside sacraments” that are easy to miss in the rush of everyday life.

If you have a digital camera, try taking a few photos of what you find.  You might be surprised how good a photographer you can be!  But if you’d rather not take photos with a camera, take them with your eyes and memory.  May we all cherish this “cup of blessing” that will lift our spirits, spark our creativity and energize our minds.


  1. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I’m thinking of you this morning with a prayer for you and Matt as you embark on this next life venture, leaving the familiar behind but finding new happiness with memories as your foundation. 🏡 ♥️ I just heard someone use the phrase “spiritual GPS” and wanted to share that with you, feeling it could be strength for you when you’re pushing through this busy time. Thank you for giving us a Defeat Despair post this Monday morning and the update. Best wishes to you, my very dear friend! Love, Sheila 💛

    • Thank you, Sheila. This week has been very busy and for the most part has gone smoothly, but it has been extremely difficult, from an emotional standpoint, to go through this process without Jeff. There are so many “triggers” built into the process, as we made so many moves together and with him it was always exciting because we were facing new horizons together. This time it was more exhausting, but not exciting at all. I keep telling myself to keep treading water and eventually it may get better. Thanks for being here with me. 🙂

  2. I’ll be thinking of you, Julia, as you make your big move. I hope this new beginning allows you to create fresh, happy memories. Be sure to take full advantage of a long, hot soak in the tub, preferably with something scented to go with it.

    • Thank you, Alys. So far I’ve been too busy for anything but a “quick dip” but I do look forward to that long hard soak! 🙂

  3. Those kinds of moves are hard but so good for us in the end. I’ll be thinking of you.

    • Thank you, Marlene. I’m still in the “hard” part, but hoping for the “good for us” part to emerge. Perhaps it’s there already and I just can’t see it. 🙂

  4. Carol Hoyos

    Hi, We bought our downsizing home 4 years ago and I’ve said many times that I don’t have another move in me. It’s exhausting.
    It’s none of my business and perhaps I’ve missed it but why are you moving?
    I hope you LV your new home as much as we do ours. ch

    • Carol, my new home is closer to all Matt’s services and also closer to York County, where our other home is located. There was no reason to stay in the expensive Alexandria area when nobody is going to work in DC or taking treatments at Walter Reed anymore. I’m shaving some of the worst traffic off my driving, and that in itself is a big help.

  5. Harry Sims

    Bon voyage on this leg of your journey.

    Wow, “Beauty is God’s hand writing”.

    Harry S

    • Thank you, Harry. So far so good, or at least, so OK.

  6. Good morning, Julia!
    Whew! What a June you’ll have!
    They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but it is also in the ear of the beholder, as any music enthusiast might tell us.
    Today started gray, but the sounds of birds welcoming the twilight, and the sound of airplanes on their (successful!) approach to the MSP had me up early. Some folks might be annoyed by these early morning activities (and sometimes that someone is me!), but this morning I listened to all the different bird calls – they are like different colors in a painting! Beautiful!

    • Susan, what a perfect analogy. Listening to varied birdsong really is very like seeing different colors in a painting. Of course, I would think so — I’m one of those synesthetes who thinks numbers have personalities and sounds have colors. Interestingly, the bird calls do not necessarily match the plumage colors, either, at least not in every case. To me, the trill of the Robin is either a bright yellow or a lovely rose pink, depending on how fast and prolonged it is.

      • Wow, Julia, that is true; sometimes when we find the bird making the lovely sounds, we’re surprised to discover that the birds physical appearance doesn’t “match” our preconception of what it would (or “should?”) look like!
        Probably that is true in other areas of our lives, too, where one perception is almost inaccurate compared with “the rest of the story” that we come to learn after a time.

        • Susan, I think it’s definitely true in other areas of life. When I used to work for the NIH-funded brain tumor study at the medical school (while Jeff was in dental school) I used to talk to the patients and keep their records, but rarely saw them because my office was in the neurosurgery dept. of the academic building and not at the clinic where they took their treatments. Sometimes when I would meet them they looked totally different than I had imagined. One of the nurses and I had a conversation about my mental pictures of the people, and it seems like most of them were wrong. Also, one of my closest friends during those years was someone who I didn’t think I was going to like. It’s so important to keep an open mind about things.

  7. Sheila


    • Thank you, Sheila. 🙂

  8. Ann

    Wonderful re-post! I was just reading all the depressing news of the day and knew I needed to see and read something positive so I thought of Defeat Despair! Knowing that you are in the middle of moving, I wasn’t sure what I would find. But, lo and behold, another inspiring post. Thank you and good luck on the move. You’ll be happy you did it once the moving part is over.

    • Thank you so much, Ann. I’m very happy that you come here to find good news. I’ll try to keep it coming. As I’ve said so many times before, I’m usually writing to myself as much as to anyone else. ❤

  9. Connie Reed

    Julia, best of luck to you in your move and new ventures in life. I know this is probably a bittersweet time for you. I look forward to seeing and hearing about your new home in the upcoming months. Take care my friend!

    • Thank you, Connie. It means more than I can say to have you here with us. “There is no friend like an old friend” — ‘old’ in this case referring to the length of acquaintance, not to the age! 😀

      • Connie Reed

        Thank you Julia! I feel the same way!

  10. God bless, Julia, and your new home.

    • Thank you, Alan.

  11. Thank you for sharing these wise words.
    I am searching for beauty and, thankfully, I am often able to find it around me, even when/where many people don’t see it.
    In the past, I thought about taking pictures and uploading them on my neglected blog or on Instagram but I told myself I’d only create more digital rubbish and I am all against waste of any kind.
    Now I think I was probably wrong. I suppose I should take pictures, so I can have a reminder of that beauty and I am prompted to be more and more attentive. Hopefully I can bring joy to someone else, too.
    Good luck with the move!

    • Elena, I had the same misgivings about starting a blog. I reasoned that there were already thousands, maybe millions of active blogs, so why did there need to be one more? I’m against waste to the point of being almost phobic about it. I think, in the beginning, I justified the blog as a way of letting friends and family know we were OK. I didn’t feel like repeating the medical news over and over again. Jeff was determined to keep our lives as normal as possible, and neither of us wanted to share all the wearisome details of life with chronic medical care. At the same time, we did know people would be wondering about us. We also knew so many people– seemingly almost everyone– who were struggling with challenges of various kinds and needed encouragement as much as we did. So I started, almost on impulse, and just kept going.

      I honestly never dreamed where the blog would go– that I would be sitting here, over five and a half years later, as a widow who was and is greatly encouraged and supported through all the crises, by many online friends, some of whom I never met face to face, and some of whom I’ve had the honor to see many times. I was recently struck with the realization that, of the five people who have stood by Jeff’s grave with me (not including the funeral, where the grave did not yet exist), three are friends I met on this blog, who live thousands of miles away, who have come to visit me in person more than once. The fourth was a longtime friend who also lives thousands of miles away, who also came to see me (and who has been part of the blogging community since its inception), and only one– my sister– is a family member. I suppose that says more than anything about the amazing turn this blog has taken in my life. How strange that face-to-face support has been as strong (or stronger) for me from my blogging family, than from “real life” people! In “real life,” time gets away from us and we think “I’ll do that sometime…” Blogging, and the friendships that spring from it, has to be intentional. It requires effort and planning, as do all friendships, but in “real life” we tend to have the illusion that “we can do that anytime” and we don’t plan for it. That’s my observation, anyway.

      All that to say– I hope that you are able to find a way to share your life online, to the extent you are comfortable doing so. The world is full of potential friends! And I hope you have encountered some here! Thanks for being here. ❤

  12. Harry Sims

    Re-quoted by Scott Peck in his book, “The Road Less Traveled”.

    We are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. …
    It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again “invisibly,” inside us.

    We are the bees of the invisible.

    We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.

    — Rainer Maria Rilke


    • WOW, I need to go back and read that book again. Or maybe just shortcut to Rilke’s work. Thanks for sharing this amazing quote!

  13. MaryAnn Clontz

    Paul, Aaric (youngest grandson) & I spent June 9-12 in Monterey; viewing the “beauty in God’s handwriting!” It was inspiring, joyful & peaceful! I was prone to spontaneous outbursts of praise to our Heavenly Father!
    As I walk or ride my bike, I love to discover the beauty all around me!
    Looking forward to hearing from you, AFTER you are a bit settled.

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. So often when I see something divinely beautiful, I think “Momba would LOVE this!” Missing your joyous face and loving presence!

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        What a JOY you spread! Thank you, my personal Mrs. Encourager!!!
        I miss our happy talks, our serious talks & the special ones about our Savior!

        • Mary Ann, so do I. I still don’t know what “normal” is for me now, but I do know that I’m not there yet. I am not kidding about coming to see you though. Plus I hope you will come to see me too, as soon as you are past all the medical stuff and able to travel long distances. Meanwhile we shall just indulge in virtual visits and thank God for the blessing of online connection! ❤ We love you.

          • MaryAnn Clontz


  14. Raynard

    Julia I get stuck sometimes in a loop. Just as I’m in the laundromat nw watching clothes dry.that poem The Autumn Wind/theme from the Titanic movie and the Italian Opera song from Shawshank redemption mashes together.We now have a heatwave going after almost two months of rain.I pray that your new home brings new and beautiful memories to come.Coming to the realization that being a father and grandfather with very little contact and communication is a challenge.One minute you feel’stuck in the mud then ” sinking in quicksand.Now the opening theme to that old Opera The Days of our lives plays. Are you glad The Shadow Knows hee hee hee lol

    • Raynard, I know what you mean about getting stuck in a loop. Whether it’s an annoying earworm (commercial jingle are the most disgusting things to have playing on the turntable in my head) or worrisome thoughts about something I can do absolutely NOTHING about, I often have to hit the re-set button in my brain. We had a wonderfully cool day for our move, for which I was VERY thankful. It looked like it was going to rain all day, but did not. I’m sad that you, too, have little contact with your kids and grandkids. I’ve heard from lots of others with that same problem. It seems to be just one more deterioration in our society. Some things have gotten better but there are a lot of things I miss about the old days. “Like sands through the hourglass…” as the old TV lead-in used to go. I never watched any soap opera but I can remember hearing them playing in the waiting rooms of various places. Now we have to listen to people gripe and argue under the guise of “news.” Uncle Walter, where are you when we need you? (Can you figure out who “Uncle Walter” is? The Shadow knows!!! 😀 )

      • raynard

        almost said”Leave it to Beaver” but it was” Walter Cronkite Uncle Walter I use to listen to Paul Harvey Also

        • YES “Uncle Walter” was Cronkite!! And “now you know the rest of the story,” hee-hee 😀 .

  15. Julia, I hope the move went well!! May you have a lovely time in your new home xo

    • Thank you, misifusa. It has been difficult going through this process without Jeff, but I am hoping I will soon be busy and happy in my new neighborhood.

      • I can imagine as I think of you often even if we’re not in communication as much. I’m sending healing hugs to you xoxo

        • Thank you, Misifusa. Keep shining! ❤

  16. Michael

    How far are u from th beach? I miss the ocean here in hot pants 92 today. Still acclimating.here in csnton.

    • Mike, from my York home I’m close (less than an hour’s drive) to several beaches. Here in Northern Virginia, it’s a bit more of a drive…at least a few hours.

  17. Mike

    Thats funny . Kindle fail again. I meant Hotlanta. Hotlanta? I should be in hot pants. Heat index today of 100. Oh, I am also doing a little readking on Mara. What happened to her? Did she stay bitter? Maybe bitterness is just a phase? Or is it bittersweet? At one point in the story Ruth 4:2 she is agin called Naomi? I think I like her.

    • Mike, I figured you meant that you were wearing something that was uncomfortably warm, such as long polyester pants. Try as I might, I don’t think I could picture you in a pair of Daisy Dukes. Yes, Naomi’s life did get happier. But she had a daughter-in-law who is nothing at all like mine.

  18. Mike

    My friend Ronn Rolheiser wrote a tribute column recently on Nouwen. He called him the “Kieerkegarrd” of our generation. Whatever that meanas in part that he was able to communicate to a wide general audience of folks in a cogent, intelligent way.

    • WOW, I have never been a fan of Kierkegaard, but one of my fellow students in my former PhD program, whose husband studied Kierkegaard extensively, told me that he is widely misunderstood. So perhaps I should take a second look. I do agree that Nouwen has a gift for touching others, and that may be mostly because of his life having been so full of pain. I think there is nothing quite like REAL suffering to open our hearts up to the plight of others. I actually haven’t read much of Nouwen’s work, but I should make it a point to read more of it.

  19. Mike

    You might enjoy his little book I mentioned earlier, a letter to his father after the death of his mother, about 92 pages long where he makes some points about grief.But like I said before no one really knows what you are going through at such a time.
    I read a sermon about Mara in which they basically blamed her for being impatient and not waiting on the Lord to act. Not sure I buy into that. Not all real life stories have a cheery ending. Perhaps that is why we sometimes are attracted to the Greek tragedies and teary Italian operas.
    Nouwen had a bunch of issues, his self deprecations, loneliness, need for acceptance, Dependene on others, and some say his own issues surrounding his sexuality.

    • Mike, I agree…I don’t buy the argument that blames Mara (Naomi) was impatient. Anyone who actually reads the story in the book of Ruth will find that Naomi was directly responsible for the happy ending…insofar as it could ever be happy for a woman who lost her husband and sons, which in those days was financially as well as emotionally catastrophic. I think people who “blame the victim” are just looking for ways to distance themselves from suffering. In real life it happens so that they can let themselves off the hook for doing anything practical to help, or as a roundabout way of reassuring themselves “it won’t happen to me.” Re: Nouwen, I think one reason he was able to connect with so many people through is writing, is that he was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” as was Jesus, whose disciple he was. I will always respect Nouwen because he chose to devote his life to adults with mental disabilities. I doubt he would have done that unless he could have the sympathy with them that could only have come from intense suffering.

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