Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Ends

When I opened the window blinds this morning, my heart leapt at the sight of snow on the ground. True to the weather forecast, snow came surreptitiously last night while we were all sleeping. Not much, but enough to wrap up this last day of the year in whiteness.

this morning's snow

last Friday's snowy scenery;  the low-lying sun shone brighty as reflected on the apartments' glass windows

Since today is "nyårsafton" (new year's eve), I'm off duty, which extends until Thursday, just like last week. I can do a lot in three days, most of which concerns my divinely ordained activities. When these most important things will have been accomplished, the remaining time goes to secondary matters that I truly love to do.

So this year breathes its last today. It went on like an arrow in its flight. I'm sitting here, staring at a draft list containing the titles of the blogs that I wanted to write this year and even the previous ones, but were just put on the shelf. Each title is devoid of content at all. I'm left wondering when I could ever write them. But write them I will, that's for sure. They are also parts of my recordable treasured memories. I'll try next year, which starts tomorrow.

This year-end also reminds me how aging creeps stealthily into all of us. Sometimes, we can't believe how old we have become, or I prefer the word mature. Okay, so the flesh gets old and declines, but my heart keeps holding the fountain of youth. And I believe that when you nurture the inner child, the charm of youth radiates and manifests itself in your physique.

Yet again, this year has been filled with beautiful memories that nourished my whole being. Among other things, the yearly convention, assemblies and traveling overseer's visits are the events that have significantly rejuvenated my spiritual well-being. Then came those brief travel holidays, new friendships forged, reconnecting with good old friends who had been scattered throughout the different continents, surprising hugs, monetary and material gifts and appreciative words (like music to my soul) from customers I work for, expressions of caring appreciation for the the kind of person that I am, etc. The list just goes on and on. Sure, life is not a bed of roses, so there were also unpleasant events. But I'm not one who dwells and harps on these things.

home-baked cake from a German family I work for

super thin cookies coated with chocolates from an elderly customer as an expression of her gratitude for my service

I would like to highlight some of the memories this year that  have been enshrined in my blog. You may click on the titles to open another window and enjoy reading.

I commenced this year with this post, which lets out the true essence of keeping one's resolution and making each day count:  Keeping Up and Marching On

Scattering Sunshine re-emphasizes the creed that I'm living up to.

My best aurora sighting this year is chronicled here: Another Dance With Aurora

One of my best summer memories in the heart of nature happened By the Lakes of Storuman.

Her Moment of Truth is an engrossing true story of a woman undergoing a surgery. 

A Weekend at the National Parks is my most thrilling adventure within the perimeter of the Polar Circle.

Just as snow wrapped up the last day of this year, rain will unwrap the snowy ground to reveal the green grass on the first day of 2014, according to the weather forecast. The year will start green and rainy, which signifies hope and blessings. 

"For all the days the earth continues, seed sowing and harvest, 
and cold and heat, and summer and winter, 
and day and night, will never cease."
- Genesis 8:22

Big thanks to all of YOU who have been following my blog and YOU who have stumbled upon my webpage! I hope you've enjoyed your visits.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bird Feeding

I mentioned before that birding is one of my several interests. I'm a birder at heart, and I wanted to join a birding club or group and go out to the field and search for different kinds of birds in this northern habitat. But these activities consume much time, and I can't put these above my higher mission. 

Happily, I can see rare and awesome birds from different places in the world through the eyes of one of my favorite bloggers here, Las Aventuras. Reading his blogs gives me the feeling that I'm also out there among the birds in the wild. I can also express my enthusiasm through his birding passion which is beautifully expressed in his posts.

Back here, I  have the pleasure of seeing these common birds flying around our residential area. But I also wanted to gather them to our back porch and see them up close. And so, hubby and I bought a bird feeder and a small sack of seeds last fall to feed the birds in winter, since the snow-covered land would make it hard for them to find food. 

It turned out that we have a warm and green winter this year, and the birds have no need to seek food and shelter here, except a few who have their nests close to us. So, these days, we're not filling our feeder with seeds yet until the snow would come for good this season. 

Last fall, however, we tested the new feeder we bought by filling it with seeds. As anticipated, lots of birds came, mostly sparrows, great tits, magpies and  crows. I hoped to see the finches too but not one came at all. Anyway, it feels good to see these common birds feasting on the seeds.

Hopefully, much snow will come these coming months and send the birds to us. Meanwhile, our feeder hangs under the winter sky, eagerly waiting to be of service to the winter birds that are trying to survive.

"Observe intently the birds of heaven;
they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
Are you not worth more than they are?"
- Matthew 6:26

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sprinkling Happiness

Gifts need not always be material things that cater to the desires of the eyes or flesh. One of the best things that we can give is the assurance that someone is being thought of and loved. We can do this in many different ways, one of which is through verbal or written expressions of acknowledgement or appreciation for a person's worth and his/her efforts to do the right thing, which is often unnoticed or overlooked. It can also be a commendation and encouragement.

Some have a hard time figuring out what to say or how to express what they feel. When I mentioned to a retired-doctor friend who is involved in a voluntary hospital work that I gave several thank-you cards to some medical personnel in that hospital, he asked me if I could give him a copy of my messages so he could share them to others as a pattern for their own thank-you cards when the need arises. Sure, I wanted to share, but I also stressed that the messages I wrote were my personal feelings based on the doctors' kind actions towards my personal needs. I'm sure that those messages won't apply to everybody.

My point here is,  our message should be tailored according to the need or situation of the recipients. It should be something we personally feel from our heart, sincere words that we truly want to get across to them. The key here is having a caring attitude, being truly interested in them. We should avoid expressions that merely flatter in order to please them.

What I usually do is keep an eye out for the ones I regularly associate with. Find out their up-side (for commendation) and down-side (for encouragement). Then I try to feel for them, deeply, and reflect on what to tell them. Thereafter, thoughts and emotions spontaneously trickle in, ready to be converted into written words that can fatten the heart. After printing the messages, I take out the cards that I made and choose which ones would go to whom. By the way, I make as much cards as I can whenever I have spare time or while I watch TV, so there's always something on hand any time I need one.

By giving out cards with well thought out messages, I'm living up to my motto "Scatter sunshine", which is also synonymous to "Sprinkle happiness".  I was touched by what a friend said when she received her card, "I know you made the Card yourself and there is love in every detail."  Isn't it also a loving thing to say? Yes, she said it perfectly: there's love in every detail. (I thank my friend, Silke, for this.)

Here are some of my recent "sprinkles". (I blurred the visible messages for privacy's sake.)

for a family I admire due to their kindness, humility and solidarity

for a couple who needs cheering up and joyful association

a belated wedding wishes and gift for a close friend in the Philippines whose wedding I've missed

for a very thoughtful and caring friend

for a couple in Denmark who warmly welcomed us to their home and prepared a sumptuous dinner for our group, a memory that remains vivid in my mind

a farewell card with good wishes for a young couple

a souvenir for a newly-wed couple

for a friend whose kindness and generosity remain constant

for a big family whose members are like pieces of sunshine

for a very kind elderly woman who lives alone in a villa that I regularly clean;  she ordered 4 cards from me to send to her friends, so I made these cards below

appreciating a couple  for their selfless deeds 

After sprinkling these bits of happiness, I also feel showered with happiness in double amount, knowing that every bit of love that I put in each detail can make the recipient feel loved.

"There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”
- Acts 20:35

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rollercoaster Winter

They said it's a warm winter this year. "Warm" here means a little below zero to 5 plus degrees celsius. One day, the snow would fall heavily. Then another day, rain would trickle continuously and thaw away the fresh snow that has piled up. Snowy, snowless, and so on and so forth. Sort of climatic roller coaster.

It's the first winter in my life that I'm not wearing my gloves or mittens for some days, and I can walk around without putting my jacket's hood up, and no bonnet either. About minus 3 degrees C is no longer so cold for me. I often find myself wishing to re-experience something below 10 or 20 minus, which I queerly enjoy. Okay, I'm a cold-blooded extra-terrestrial creature trapped on this planet, which explains my insane fondness of cold weather. Take note though: I'm that kind of alien who has a warm heart that brims with love, joy and peace.

So, winter wonderland is going crumbly. The news that there  may not be a white Christmas this year disheartens many, but this doesn't matter to me since I don't celebrate Christmas anyway. It's a common knowledge that Jesus wasn't born in December, so there's no reason to celebrate this day. For me, everyday is special, festive and an occasion to be peaceable, loving, helpful and generous. Vit jul eller mörk jul, splelar ingen roll, as I say it in Swedish.

But a winter without snow? Or a rainy one? Unthinkable! Ridiculous as it may seem, there's nothing to do but accept it and enjoy the many other things that the season offers, as I have presented in my previous entry.  Here are more fantastic things I gathered this month.

Jupiter still hanging around with Castor and Pollux, Dec. 13

Full moon, Dec. 17, also called Oak Moon or Long Night's Moon, the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long.

night after the full moon

Jupiter was getting closer to the moon (the bright dot left of the moon is Jupiter)

the meeting of the two prominent celestial luminaries in December

 moon's cosmic brilliant companion, Jupiter (upper left) in Dec. 18 


Today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, a day that marks our shortest daylight period and longest night of the year. The sun halts its annual southward migration, pauses briefly and then starts to travel back north and restore light to this bedarkened region of the earth. The beginning of hope for sunlight/sunshine lovers. This is also the official start of winter. Morning came with clear sky and tangerine clouds in the horizon escorting the rising sun. At -6 degrees C, the snowless ground is nonetheless coated with frost. Right now, however, the clouds have gathered again. Snow clouds?

Okay, so... while the season runs in a roller coaster mode, it's best to ride along with it and have fun in its up-and-down swing. What a thrill!

Have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snowless December?

Strange. This is not the kind of winter that I've known since I came here. Not a snow on the ground in December! Hard to believe. Are my eyes playing tricks on me?

This is how this season usually looks like here:

Okay, we did have a blanket of snow last week that remained intact, making me believe that it was here to stay. And then, only this Monday, thick clusters of snowflakes came falling for several hours. The white blanket thickened and transformed into an immaculately soft wool, which is the yearly costume of our city in this season.

And then, last Wednesday, a winter storm spilled liquid all over the place, thawed away the snow and left the ground  with clear ice coating. Aww...so slippery!

Today, the whiteness is gone, along with the ice. The green grass has reemerged and coated with frost. The streets and walkways have dried up. So is the air, which went back below zero. The sun was out the whole day and the sky was clear, though not deep blue, just pale blue.

So this is December this year. Devoid of snow. What was it I said again regarding the absence of the rowan berries in my post HERE ? I think that portended this present condition. I know there will come more snow later. This month though? I hope so too, sooner or later.

This is a bit disappointing, but I'm not complaining at all. True, I'm enamoured with lots of snow but the absence of it doesn't turn me off. There are still lovely things around to immerse myself into. Little things that the untrained eyes cannot see nor a closed heart and mind can embrace. They're literally everywhere, from under our feet to the sky over our head. It's just a matter of seeing through an aesthetic eye.

Who cannot be awed by such beauty found in these "simple" things that are present even in "unpleasant places"?

"Look! These are the fringes of his ways,
And what a whisper of a matter has been heard of him!
But of his mighty thunder who can show an understanding?”
- Job 26:14

So...with or without snow in December, I know that I will keep floating in cheerfulness among the snowflakes that fall within the scope of my imagination. This in itself  is a gift from a loving Creator.