Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Tree Hesitation and Other Tales

The weird thing? I don't want to put away our new little Christmas tree.

I leave it plugged in all day and night (yeah, yeah, safety issues) and it's like the colorful dining area adopted that tiny tree as one of its own. He just fits like he's always been there and shines out into the night like a beacon in a storm.

I like that.

I'm surprised at myself, really. I (now, don't faint-- I'll explain this better as I go on) tried to avoid Christmas carols this December(!) No really. When our tv's Easy Listening station kept slipping them in, I switched permanently to Soundscapes which perhaps is run by atheists or Jehovah Witnesses because never did they they play a single carol. Not that I could tell, anyway. Fortunately I love Soundscapes, well, except for the songs that sound like a serious-minded 12-year-old making music with a hand saw, a bottle jug and a metal trash can. Those, not so much.

I also muted (or switched) any Christmas-type tv commercial, especially that dreadful, representing-all-that's-wrong-with-Christmas-gone-worldly Target one where rabid children and animals nag each other, "What did you get? What did you get?". Yet I did watch that Glade one which I shared with you because it was sane and lovely. And I did tolerate Christmas episodes of current favorite tv series, but while channel surfing, instantly zipped past anything else with a Santa, Christmas tree or present-hugging, candy-cane-sucking child.

So honestly, the fact that I'm hesitating to remove the new little tree is downright Twilight Zone-ish.

But here's what I think explains much of my odd behavior: during 2014 I have craved new things. Oh, not always brand new stuff, but new-to-me things like:

New books I've never read before.
New tv shows/episodes/movies I've never before watched.
New foods I've never tried.
New night clothes, socks and dishtowels.

... which doesn't sound too surprising unless you recall that, generally, I'm Mrs. Same Ol' Same Ol' who prefers old items for comfort, nostalgia and sentiment's sake.

What could have initiated this change? I'm thinking God's reminding me to avoid ruts, things which take you only where you've been before. He knows that we homebodies (especially) can so easily slide into a ravine and get sucked under boredom, staleness and stagnation.

And He did not create us for that. 

Uh, no. He created His kids for 'newness of life' and for keeping our eyes open to the New Thing he is always wanting to do within each of us. After all, that's a huge reason Jesus came and died for us all-- to give us a new life here and a new one yet to come. Both.

New, new, new.  A new life for a new year lived in a new way. And you've gotta love that, right? Even when you're talkin' a new tiny Christmas tree.  :)


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."   ... 2 Corinthians 5:17

" ... be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  ... put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."   ... Ephesians 4:23,24

" ... a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh."   ... Ezekiel 11:19


Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.


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Welcome to Last Chance

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So You Don't Believe in New Year's Resolutions?

"Watch! I'm about to carry out something new! And now it's springing up— don't you recognize it? I'm making a way in the wilderness and paths in the desert."   ...Isaiah 43:19


My, my ... the way many people turn all sarcastic and defeatist about new year's resolutions! 

But as for me, I adore new-born dreams and young, energetic goals. Those nudges to challenge myself and make my days better swoosh fresh inspiration, ideas into my head and hope for days spent more wisely. Why hate those things?

I mean, really. 

Already this week I switched two bookcases around upstairs (no small feat when you own tons of books), placing one with a solid back beside my upstairs pantry shelves so to make a more solid 'wall' separating the guest part from my part. Today I'm hoping to paint the back and hang a picture upon it. A good change for an upcoming new year around here.

Then this morning I (finally) printed a Word document listing Tom's and my favorite tv shows with their days and networks so that we'll no longer need to rely upon our memory when locating them on our cable's handy dandy primetime watch-when-you-want feature. (Long story how that works.)

Tom and I agree that anytime we make life easier on our heads, it's a relief. 

Probably most of  my goals, so far anyway, for 2015 are to make Hobbit Cottage more conveniently livable for us. To repair what is broken, to tweak what annoys me. To buy new carpet, hutches and to declutter our biggest, dirtiest secret otherwise known as the basement. 

I also plan to read more books on writing (and more books, period), meet some new neighbors and exercise nearly everyday.

The resolutions of a big-time world-changing, Type A personality go-getter? Nah. Just the simple goals of a woman who knows what she is and what she is not. And what she is, is mostly, a woman who loves God and finds that He makes all days remarkable.

The end of December is such a hopeful time of year! What adventures await us in the months ahead? What changes will our attention to new goals bring? In which ways will God renew us and make us more like Him?

I hope you're anticipating 2015, as well.

                                "Where there is no vision, the people perish..: "   ... Proverbs 29:18


"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."   ... Romans 6:4

"The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!" ~Edward Payson Powell

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." ~Oprah Winfrey


Lots of Negative Nellies out there say, "By golly, there's not been anything good on tv since 1986!" 

Well, I can't agree. At all. These are the programs I listed today on that aforementioned, give-our-heads-a-rest list:

Alaska: The Last Frontier (one of our favorite shows ever)
Scorpion (Tom loves this. I'm more like, eh.)
Castle (did you see the recent '1970's episode'? They nailed the 'look' perfectly. One of the very best.)
Major Crimes
NCIS New Orleans
Chicago Fire (love, love this, but not how they've left us hanging re: those poor ambulance kids for 3 weeks!)
Person of Interest
Chicago PD
The Middle
The Mentalist (yeah, it's time to end this)  :)
Stalker (I was determined not to like this one, but got sucked in)
Bones (did you watch the 200th episode? The look, especially at the beginning, was cinematographic-ly awesome)
Rehab Addict
Blue Bloods (Tom's watched for years, I started in Sept. Oh wow!)
Hawaii 5-0
Gold Rush (the human nature on this fascinates and frustrates me, both.)
Cold Justice (I have tons of respect for those two women)

I also am addicted to like Criminal Minds, but hey! Before your eyes bug out, let me add that I discovered the perfect way to watch it. By way of Netflix, I simply fast-forward each violent scene till I reach the parts with the BAU team.

I love that BAU team.  

Some things just cannot be explained.  :)


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Sunday, December 28, 2014

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

"... In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit ..."  ...From 1 Timothy 3


Don't you just love these days after Christmas? I do. All the normal 364 of them. heh.

Tom and I drove, on Christmas Day, to our local theater where we watched Unbroken and came away feeling infused with courage and inspiration. And while closing my eyes during the dreadfully cruel parts, I considered today's world and how, ok, maybe we're not being physically attacked(yet), but emotionally and spiritually? Daily we face 'attacks' such as brain-shocking news stories of enormous unrest and brutality. And even arrogant, critical, where-did-that-come-from? remarks can come from friends, relatives, who morph into mean strangers as if from Mars, leaving our surprised hearts, bleeding.

These Last Days, unfortunately, will bring more of all that stuff and only those closest to God will be left standing as Louis Zamperini was in the film. Only folks who understand the whole "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities" thing will save their strength for fighting what really matters, not wasting it upon what/who did not.

Yeah, these were my thoughts inside that dark theater beside Tom with my black wool coat over me like a warm blanket. Some people say watching anything, movies or tv shows, is a waste of time, but you won't read that here. Personally, I think God likes to still my body, my mind, so He can speak to me by way of visual images upon a screen.

He created different learning types and it's sad when visual, audio and experiential learners turn all 'your way is lame' toward each other. Such a creative God watches to see whether we'll seek to understand, become stronger together even though we differ or if we'll fear the gifts, the strengths, which we, ourselves, do not have.

And in this upcoming new year may we, more than ever, work together, forgive and behold the power of peace. God, as a father, desires that each of His kids get along and discover the strength, the miracles of unity in the Spirit.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"   ...Psalm 133:1


“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken."   ...Luke 21:25,26

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."   ... Ephesians 6:12

"Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."   ... Ecclesiastes 4:12


And it's weird, but this morning as I read this, I thought how odd! These were the thoughts I had during the movie Tom and I watched the following day (yes, at the theater again)-- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. 

My, my, my... I do love confirmation.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tom and I Have Already Opened Our Gifts(!)

"I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)."   ... John 10:10


Christmas Eve Day! And I've already opened all my gifts.

Like, I just now sat down from puttering in the yard in my regular clothes (no jacket) and 49 glorious degrees. I fed the birds, raked some leaves (it never ends around Hobbit Cottage) and pulled up some sad-looking, spotty-white hosta stems. 

If you live where I do and you're out in your yard humming and happily puttering on December 24th, it is a big deal. Normally you'd be at the windows gazing upon snow and wishing for an early spring and maybe that you could afford a winter place in Florida.

But today I have Springtime in my heart and even in my yard.

Anyway, since Tom and I feel so spoiled this year, we're not doing gifts for each other(!)

We've already received too much. 

I mean, there's the big new window which opened-up more of our world and the river to us and there's the fireplace which, ok, cannot bring me lasting happiness, but is currently trying nonetheless.

(Most nights I burn tea lights in goblets in there and even feel a tad warmer just staring at their flickering.)

There's the cute kitchen window, also, which makes me smile.

Plus there are the books I've bought, the little hanging shelves (not pictured above) and my much-appreciated slipper chair upstairs, not to mention Tom's electronic doodads he bought for himself. Tom does love a good electronic doodad.  

This year we've already received too much. Our hearts are even now so full--and not just with stuff and things, either. Uh, no. But with a sweet daughter (who sent us a heavy box in the mail), good friends, and with the God who never leaves us alone.

So this Christmas  we are simply planning to watch two movies at the nearby theater and that will be a rare treat. 

Even that feels too good, really.


"Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions, and the power to enjoy them and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God [to him].
 For he shall not much remember [seriously] the days of his life, because God [Himself] answers and corresponds to the joy of his heart [the tranquility of God is mirrored in him]."   ... Ecclesiastes 5:19-20

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."   ...  Charles Dickens


This Christmas as with the past ten, I'll be thinking of all of you, my much-appreciated readers who encourage me way more than you realize. If not for you, most likely, this blog would be a ghost town by now.

So thank-you.  Truly.

And Merry Christmas to all you who read here!


Early this morning our local news shared this short video showing cats with Christmas trees and it made Tom and I laugh! (Click on the first one, Cats vs. Christmas Trees.)


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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yes, Virginia. It All Adds Up.

"Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha ... She was full of good works and acts of charity."  And, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."   ... Acts 9:36, John 21:25


Tom and I have been married for 36 years(!) and oh, the hundreds of (crazy) ways I've saved money, mostly so that this lover-of-home can stay, well, home, the only place she's qualified to work. heh.

All those mornings when I boiled my own pancake syrup using half the recommended sugar, even. The thousands of laundry loads I dried upon a wooden rack and the countless dollars I've saved almost-never paying full-price for groceries, but waiting till they went on sale, then saving more with added coupons.

The homemade glass and counter-top cleaner I've bottled with vinegar and water, the hand soap with just a tad of dish liquid and lots of water. The decades I've mowed the lawn myself, dug my own gardens, grown our own vegetables. The clothes we've bought at second-hand shops, the fees we avoided paying on credit cards by paying them off monthly, the extra sweaters I've worn so to keep the heat turned lower.

It all adds up. 

Over 3 decades all that effort (which eventually becomes mindlessly automatic) has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in savings.

You know what else adds up for us all over our lifetime? Thoughtful deeds done for others.

The gifts we made or bought and gave sacrificially.
The instances at the supermarket when we smiled at everybody.
The times we 'liked' someone's Facebook status and/or commented simply to let them know people care.
The moments we told others we'd pray for them.
The days we visited the sick and/or cooked them a meal.
The afternoons we babysat children simply because a parent needed alone time.
The times we expressed our condolences to others. Yes, even online it matters.
The gift cards or checks we sent to help someone in need.
The times we encouraged others with our words and kept them moving forward.
The mornings we invited someone over for coffee and dessert or paid for a breakfast at a coffee shop.
The times we gave away items we still loved.

This list is endless because all possible good deeds are endless. But one thing I know? God keeps track of each time we gave out of obedience and from a pure heart. 

And I'm thinking when we reach Heaven we'll be astounded at how they all added up. How our good deeds became like thousands of gleeful, bright fireflies, lighting, warming even the corners of this otherwise cold, dark world.


"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden."  ... Matthew 5:14

“Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.” 
― Leonard Cohen


Need to read some heartwarming stories instead of all the tragic ones out there? Go here.


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Monday, December 22, 2014

The December Fight

"... seek peace and pursue it."   ... Psalm 34:14


Oh for goodness sake.

Every December it seems like Tom and I have an argument. Oh, not long, drawn-out ones (we've been married too long for those), but ones not unlike this year's:

Debra (for the 20th time since we moved here): "I really want two skylights put in upstairs."

Tom (for the 20th time since we moved here): "How about adding a shed dormer instead?"

Debra: "Why? That is waaay more expensive. Why do you always disagree with what I suggest?"

Tom: "You always disagree with what I suggest."

Debra: "Why can't you be the bigger person and change?"

Tom: "Why can't you?"

Gah. And of course, I won't tell you how the word 'stupid' was thrown around quite freely nor how I slammed the refrigerator door then stomped (loudly) upstairs, marking the end to our otherwise pleasant day of watching tv together. 

Yeah, I won't mention that part.

There's just something about December. Some type of weird stress in the air that drapes over people, I think, even calm folks like us who don't even really 'do' Christmas anymore. And every year I try to be more careful to avoid anything which would unnecessarily cause The Ghost of Christmas Stress to seep into our house.

But every year, he seems to sneak inside anyway, at least once. Thus, one more reason I do not, (ol' Scrooge, herself), believe that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. (Though as some of you know, I'm very fond of December 26th. heh.)

Anyway. Tom and I are fine. The next day I told him, "I need some things done around here and I'm going to save you the trouble of lining up workers to do them. Your mind is on your job, I think that's great, actually, so I'm going to make things easier on you and see about this stuff, myself. You'll love it when it's all done. I promise."

And we left it peacefully at that. 

Why share this stuff? Well, to remind you that if you, also, get visited by The Ghost of Christmas Stress, you're not alone. And that, just because he came, it doesn't mean he must stay or make you feel condemned and guilty for weeks. 

Just keep desiring the greater things like Peace, Love and Grace more than being right, bossy and the winner and then soon that ol' ghost will seep back out under the front door and, hopefully, not return till next year.

Or, (crossing my fingers), not even then.


"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."... Romans 12:18


John Greenleaf Whittier quotes  


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Friday, December 19, 2014

And Then There Are Christmas Cards ...

...I still send those. Though not as many as in previous years, but still, Christmas cards are a delight, especially when you find beautiful ones like these at Dollar Tree:

Lots of people no longer send paper cards, (the way I've ceased decorating for Christmas) which is fine, of course! But I hope their only reason is not because card-sending is expensive. It isn't. My pretty cards cost a scant .07 cents each, plus the affixed .49 cent stamp and since when will .56 cents shove you into the streets and homelessness? Since when is .56 cents too costly a way to remind someone they're remembered, appreciated and loved?

Even when Tom was out of work, I mailed out Christmas cards and enjoyed imagining the smiles they'd create at mailboxes. In our 36 years of marriage God has consistently provided money so we can share good things with others. Always He makes certain funds are available to bless folks with and always He restores back to us '30, 60 or 100 fold' just as the Bible says.

Even in 2014 it is still in giving that we receive.

And yes, of course we now have e-cards. I've sent scads and it's easy to include encouraging words with those as well. But maybe it's that word 'easy' which troubles me sometimes. Is easy giving the best kind, I wonder?

All I'm really blogging today? If the old-fashioned mailing of paper cards still delights you, but you're concerned about the cost--don't be. If Grace is nudging you to go ahead! well, go ahead. Obeying Grace is wisdom. 

Cards mailed today or tomorrow have a good chance of arriving 'on time', but really, even if they're a few days late, which of us hates receiving kind, loving wishes after Christmas?

Always is a perfect time to show people they are loved. Any day of the year is the right time for that.

"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."   ... Ephesians 5:2

"Spend and God will send."                                          ...... Author: Unknown Authors

"I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare."
    Author: C.S. Lewis


Awww... if this story doesn't warm your heart, well, you uh-oh! Just might be dead. heh.  :)


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Butter in the Well

A Christmas Peril

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Finding Holiday Magic in the Baking Aisle ... And Beyond

"We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."  ...   John 1:14


Very early Saturday morning I stepped into the baking aisle of our supermarket, then stopped my cart (you can pause safely only when you beat the crowds) and spied this sign over a cake mix pyramid:

Share The Holiday Magic.

Oh my, the baking aisle always feels like 'holiday magic' to me. More than usual this morning, even, because Josh Groban began singing O Holy Night (have you heard him?) when I spotted the powdered sugar and remembered French toast with Tom on dark mornings in California. I glanced at the baking cocoa and recalled making brownies in a floury apron, then setting them on a plate for an 11-year-old Naomi after school in Nevada. 

All those lemon meringue pies I made for Tom's birthdays. The cakes I baked for families we invited over to dinner in my 20's and beyond. The sugar cubes I bought one year to add tiny frosting flowers to as decor (but never did). The Christmas cookies Naomi and I baked together, the spiced nuts I placed in decorated canning jars for friends.

Every Saturday I step into that baking aisle and all those memories greet me, bursting upon me like silent, warm sunlight.

I stared at that sign some more. Holiday Magic? No, mine is 'Everyday Holyday Magic' and it's not confined to the baking aisle or December, either. Everyday Holyday Magic cannot be crammed into one month, nor rushed through a blur or bought with money. It's best experienced at a peaceful heart rate while taking only peeks at the Past, but never lingering there until regret seeps in.

No, God dwells in Today. On far-off yesterdays we knew Him not as well, nor walked closely enough to touch His arm and--for that reason-- yesterday was poorer and Today feels richer. 

At least, that is how I've found it to be.

Today is better because we know Him better...


"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God ..."   ...Psalm 84:10

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.  Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?"..... Bob Hope, who brought love and hope to service people throughout the world every single year of his long career

"Peace on earth will come to stay when we live Christmas every day."
... Helen Steiner Rice


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The Christmas Shoppe

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rudolph: He Was *Always* Special

Here we go again. Why Rudolph's story makes me, let's say, ill. Though some would say it's a story of redemption, I'm thinkin' it's not God's kind. He doesn't make us prove we're remarkable before He calls us worthy. Godly redemption is nothing like that.

(Yeah, yeah... I'm over-thinking this, but hey. We all gotta take a stand somewhere.)  :)

Posted yearly since 2006:

The movie, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer bothers me and I roll my eyes each time I hear the song on my kitchen radio.

I mean, think about it... Here's this adorably-cute reindeer who just happened to be born with a bright, red nose. As if he could help it! And suddenly he grows up, goes to reindeer school and gets ridiculed (dare I say bullied?) by his intolerant, bratty little schoolmates just because his bright, cherry-red nose isn't small, dark and boring liking everyone else's.

And because of that one little difference, he's laughed to scorn and the majority don't take the time to discover that, really, Rudolph is a darn nice kid... uh, reindeer. He loves his parents, he's sweet and he just wants to be accepted like everyone else at reindeer school. But no, that's asking too much. Even his teachers laugh at him (shame on them!).

But then, poof! Suddenly, Christmas Eve rolls in all foggy-like and since Santa can't see to drive his sleigh, Christmas is nearly cancelled. But then someone remembers that goofy little kid, Rudolph, the one with the nose like a huge red lantern, and Rudolph is whisked to the head of the reindeer pack and Christmas is saved, thanks to that funny little kid... uh, reindeer, who, just the previous week, was considered a royal loser.

Oh but now--now!--Rudolph is a hero. And then how the reindeer 'loved him' (if that's love, I'll take spaghetti). They even shouted-out with glee, because of course, now, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer is going down in history.

But only after he proved himself a useful member of society. Only after his 'disability' saved Christmas for all of mankind. Only after Rudolph became a valuable asset, a famous reindeer and a credit to his family and the entire world at large.

Give me a break.

Right there is the kind of stuff which is messing us all up, stressing us out and making us appreciation-hungry nuts. The fact is, Rudolph was valuable before that foggy Christmas Eve. He was a creation of God, a son, a friend, a member of woodland society and just a sweet little deer. And here is the truth:

Today you are valuable to God.
Today God loves you just as you are, famous or unknown. For you are not unknown to Him.
Today God would have sent Jesus to die for you, to redeem you, even if you were the only person on Earth.
Today, with God, you are a winner, not a loser.
Today, you do not have to prove yourself to God. He knows your weaknesses and He's standing ready to give you His strength in those areas.
Today, even if you overcame all your weaknesses, God would not love you any better than He does right this minute.
Today God is thrilled that you are His child and He wouldn't trade you for all the perfect, got-it-all together, famous, Christmas-saving people in the whole World.


And I hope you'll remember that.


If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such [a]as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."   ... 1 Corinthians 13:1

We are too much haunted by ourselves, projecting the central shadow of self on everything around us. And then comes the Gospel to rescue us from this selfishness. Redemption is this, to forget self in God.
    Author: Frederick W. Robertson

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, 
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, 
Because Thy promise I believe, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come! 

Just as I am, Thy love unknown, 
Hath broken every barrier down; 
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

... Charlotte Elliott


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A Portrait of Dawn