Amy's Landscape

Views from the Florida Landscape

Assassins in the In-Box

Funny, the spam software didn’t catch it.  As a follower of Christ the subject line, “Your life has been bought” or something like that, caused me to pause.  Perhaps it was an inspiration from a friend, a reminder of that great Love; I took a spare moment to look.

What a lovely bit of news:  it was from an assassin, saying they had been hired to snuff me out but,  for a price, of course, they just might be able to avert the hit!

Really busy that morning with no time for this nonsense, I almost tapped ‘delete’, then caught myself and stopped to think it through a bit.

It was obviously nothing to take serious, sent to me and a zillion other people.  The added pictures of an AK-47, bullets and a broken window were probably stock clip-art.

But what if someone else took it seriously?  Why was it something to chuckle about and delete, that someone entered my house via the in-box to threaten my life, when it would be something to call the police about if I’d received it by way of regular mail or if this crank came to my door saying this?

The more I mulled it, the more I knew I’d been chosen (by God, not this cracked pot) to receive this e-mail for a wider purpose.  What if I had an opportunity to help others and I junked this thing out of impatience?

As usual, I was thinking too much but OK, in I dove.  The day had taken an adventurous turn, and I was game, but where should one go from here?

The first call was to my local Sheriff’s Department.  They kept looping me to voice mails that looped me back to the receptionist.  In frustration, I asked her what to do and after a few questions she finally asked, ‘are you in the city limits?’ and referred me to my city police.

It was a little disturbing to find when I called, they really didn’t know what to, except the receptionist said they could send out an officer…  I didn’t need an officer; I just wanted someone in authority to know about it, maybe ask for the information so they could track the IP address from this nut, which should be simple for SOMEONE to do in the 21st Century!

Anyway, after enough of that I just listed them at  , wrote my assassin an e-mail back and here’s what I said:


I have contacted the Police Department, our county Sheriff’s Economic and Computer Crimes division and I’ve listed you on  so you’re in the national database as a spammer and will be tracked. 

As a follower of Christ I believe in his love for me and that he has paid for my life by coming here to take my place and pay for the ways I’ve rebelled against God throughout my lifetime.  God gave me my life and Jesus paid for it, so he owns it.  He, and only he, can take it, and he is welcome to do it any time, any way, any place, because it’s his.  You have no power to.

I am praying for you now.  God knows where you are, and exactly what you are doing right this minute.  He loves you, just as you are at this moment.  He has better things for you to do with the life he gave you.  Right now, you can close your eyes, ask Jesus Christ to forgive you for everything you’ve done that is wrong, and you can start a new life, one that makes you feel like a real human being, one that brings honor to God and those that love you, and one that gives you an eternal home once this life is over.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done with your life up to this point, you can start fresh today.  I hope you will take this moment to redirect the path your life is on. 

We will all die someday.  I know where I am going and with whom I will spend eternity.  Do you?  Write me again if I can be of service to you.

Then, I quit all the drama for a moment and just prayed for the person.  There was a real someone behind this silliness, and God had used the Internet to have us intersect in this unique way.  I really felt like this was a call, and I answered it; what fun to be part of this odd thing and God was in it, somehow.

Just for entertainment I copied the whole thing and sent it to some associates for a chuckle and a heads up in case they got it too.  One of them got back to me with some very useful information:

Turns out the FBI does track these threatening e-mails and needs them to be reported so they can.  While most people just delete these as obvious scams, it’s important to report them because some people are terrified and financially hurt by them.  is the place to file a report.  They do track the IP address of these people and prosecute.

IC3’s mission is to give victims a convenient and easy way to report these incidents, and to refer complaints about cyber-crime to the proper law enforcement and regulatory agencies that have the jurisdiction for tracking them.  It’s important to keep the e-mail, receipts, whatever you have associated with the incident and report as much as you can about it.

I learned there had been similar scams that circulated targeting dentists; several of them had really taken the threat seriously, even making contact with the posing assassins to give the deposit required to ward off the hit.  It had originated in Moscow!

All in all, another interesting morning here in beautiful Florida…


February 2, 2012 Posted by | God, God in the everyday, Life, Random, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Show Queens of the South

Azaleas are the show queens of the South.  Where the Carolinas and Tennessee may boast their versions of that rhododendron with abundant pride, Florida considers itself the Azalea capital of the world.

Azalea varieties abound profusely, from the petite Duc DeRohan to the spectacular Indica Formosa that grows to tree size.  Azaleas come in countless colors and combinations including white, red, every variant of magenta or purple and Florida boasts them all with rightful vanity in a spring to summer display to beat all challengers.

The one thing they have in common is that they are acid loving plants that flourish in a rich, organic environment.  The wrong soil will quickly spell an end to the life of the most hearty azalea, where the right acidic soil found under every spreading oak will cause azaleas to thrive even in the wild with no human intervention.

Are you in the right soil?  Do you surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best, confront you when you’re off the path and encourage you when you’re onto something good?  Or are you allowing yourself to be drained by others with no end to the flow?

What’s your environment like?  Are you surrounded with negativity, by people who continually zero in on what’s wrong or look for problems to steep themselves in?

Do you thrive on drama instead of admitting your contribution to the situation so you can grow up, change and move forward?

Do you get enough fresh air and sunshine, taking time to get outdoors to praise God for whatever beauty you find around you, and thank him for what you DO have instead of whining for more?

What do you focus your thoughts on?  Are you enriched with the nutrients you find in the Word of God and input that uplifts and challenges you, or are you sluggish and isolated because you don’t know what God wants for you or expects of you?

Maybe you need a soil check.  Ask yourself those questions and examine where your head and heart have been lately.  Next, admit to God and others where you’ve been off the mark, ask Christ to forgive you and get moving in a new direction.  It’s not as hard as it seems,  but it takes humility to look honestly at our soil and make the changes we need to thrive and not wilt.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frog in the Pool

It was as if he was going down for the last time.  How long he had suffered I could not tell but from the looks of his movements he’d been long at it.

Padding out to the poolside each morning I almost always saw one.  Somehow in the night they had fallen overboard by mistake or perhaps had been lured by the shimmering stars reflected from the crystal sky above.

But then they were there, first to swim with delight and abandon, to dive and float to their tiny heart’s content, only to find that once they’d reached their fill, there was no way out.

The sheer face of the tiled wall leads to a bull-nosed precipice over which they could not jump, swim or crawl.  And so they swam and they swam and they swam unto exhaustion, finally to sprawl ready to sink for the last time to the black depths below.

One avenue of escape arrived with the morning, a woman in flip-flops and moo-moo, possessing a coffee cup and kind heart.

His struggle tug at my compassion for things living and on instinct I ran for the pole and skimmer, hoping against hope that I would not be too late to save him from his watery prison.

Still, as my redeeming net approached from above, he suddenly took on new vigor, dashing with all his might to the bottom of the pool, using every millimeter of his instinct and strength to elude the only help that could free him!

Time after time I dipped in the net with which to scoop him from certain death and equal to my efforts to save, he eluded me.

How often we dance out this same scene with God.  Drawn to the glitter or the gratification of a toy or a desire, we chase a phantom, one that only leads to our damage.

Yet we continue to try to elude God; we resist his net of safety.  Because it means we must trade our will for his, we choose to keep our rebellion, even if our choice causes such misery.

When we finally give what we call ‘freedom’ up, give in and let go, oddly enough it turns out we don’t lose anything we don’t need to.  We become freer than we were, on a new plane, our eyes open to the reality that the pond was the chain that pulled us down.  The freedom to do it our way leads to death, the bow to obedience leads to life.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Your Spanish Moss?

Nothing gives so fine a touch to landscaping as edging.  The whirring metal blade carves a distinct line, making every planter look crisp, every driveway or sidewalk appear clean and orderly.

But all Southern landscapers know that just one touch of that blade’s tip on a piece of Spanish moss and instantaneously, the moss will be drawn in and wound tightly around the blade housing.

The smart landscaper knows this to be an inescapable reality and will humble her (or him) self to bend down and move the offending moss out of the way of the blade before the consequences come due.

But, over again, I would say to myself, “This time, it will be different.  Just this once, I will be the victor; I will do it my way without the same outcome, without the same result…”

And every time, without exception, I would have to relearn the lesson.  No matter how fast the blade turned, no matter how much I revved the motor to plow through the moss, the moss always won.

The moments I intended to save by refusing to bend down and collect the moss were lost, and the payment was minutes wasted picking out every tiny piece of moss wound tightly around the blade and housing, sometimes so tightly I had to stop everything and get a pair of needle-nose pliers to pick away at the tighter strands.

Why do we continually think we can get away with something we’ve already seen won’t work; that somehow, even though we do the same dumb thing, this time it will be different, somehow WE are different and we won’t pay the penalties?

God puts consequences in place so we’ll do the smart thing, the right thing, the good thing, for us and those in our lives.  Why do we choose to go back to that thing we know is wrong for us, hoping somehow this time it will be different?  How many times do we have to do the same thing and get the same result until we choose to plug in a different move or humble ourselves and do it his way instead of ours?

What is that one thing you refuse to give in over and give up to God’s sovereignty?

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Turn

What foolishness!  With too much on my mind and without giving attention to what, in reality, I was doing, I turned left, thinking I needed to hit the bank before 4:00 p.m.  But in heading left, I bypassed the post office and another quick stop I could have knocked out had I gone right and then to the bank.  I wasn’t really in the car at all but off someplace in my head, disconnected from what I was supposed to be focused on.  Now I’d have to waste more time I was already pressed for.  In my head I heard, “You can turn around any time.”

What is repentance, but to turn around, do a you-turn?  Many times the thought begins to creep over us that we’re heading in a direction that’s not in our best interest, or we get caught in the fallout of a poor decision or choice, yet we refuse to get it; too prideful to make the you-turn it takes to get back on the right road.

Did you take a left today when you meant to take a right?  Did you head in a direction you were too proud to admit you shouldn’t go?  That’s just the stuff the Christ came to move us through, to help us get off the pride train and make the U-turn we need to go in a direction God has laid out for our benefit.  To continue on is folly but we often do, too arrogant to say we’re wrong and humble ourselves to make the you-turn to real freedom and peace.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pruning of Me and the Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtles are abundant in the South, their showy poms on display with great regularity from spring to fall in every shade of vibrant purple through delicate pink imaginable, even to lacy whites.  Yet every winter, no matter how mild, these proud giants are brought to naught, stripped of their elegant beauty and barely a leaf remains, mere naked frames before the winter scene.

The prudent gardener knows, though, that before the first spring’s tender leaf appears, major surgery must be performed.  Across the Florida landscape, gardeners enact what appears to be a violent attack upon these vulnerable beauties, severely pruning them back to nearly half their size, down to meager sticks rising a few feet from the ground.

How could this process be anything but cruel?  Doesn’t the gardener know what these grand ladies have already endured, stripped and laid bare before the world in humiliation?  Why chop down such meager remains when surely the leaves will return and all will be well once again?

Yet those who spare their Crepe Myrtles this mortification will find them spindly and weak throughout the coming year.  Poms will return but thinner, less bountiful.  It turns out the severe pruning promotes, and in fact ensures, new growth.  And not only new growth but stronger branches, more abundant leaves, denser poms.

Within just a few weeks of this pruning holocaust these genteel lovelies sprout forth multiple branches and leafy decor almost overnight.

Often I think of myself as the Crepe Myrtle and our Father as the Master Gardener.  How I detest his pruning, the agony of the cutting, the sorrow of the loss of the branches he cuts away.  How often has he called me to give someone up, to lose something I cherished, and I begged him not to love me enough to do the work?

At the time, it’s quite impossible to believe his surgery could ever be a good thing.  Yet later, after the tears have fallen and I’ve laid down the fight, I look back to see he didn’t take anything I didn’t need to lose.

I learned something I needed to find out.  I‘m enriched with more understanding, compassion, wisdom than I had before the pruning began.   I, like the Crepe Myrtle, am stronger and more beautiful for his blade, cutting away dead wood I didn’t even know needed to be removed.

What’s your dead wood; what’s the part you’re hanging  onto?  Are you allowing God to prune off the dead wood of your life or holding on to what you‘ve got, willing to settle for the spindly life you have because it’s what you’re used to, when he’s offering new growth and promise of a more vibrant life? Let something go today, something or someone you’ve be clinging to, and dare to believe God loves you enough to do something different, for which you’ll be richer in a sense you hadn’t even seen before.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, Gardening, God in the everyday, Landscaping, Nature, Relationships | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Politics of the Left Lane

“WHY are you hanging out in the left lane?!”, I queried my son while zooming down the interstate.  “I’m not in anybody’s way, I’m going the speed limit, what’s the problem?”

For his age group, it’s not a problem.  But for mine, it’s a big problem.  In my 1975 Driver’s Education class, Coach Eddie always stressed, “Slower traffic keeps right; get out of the left lane!”.  In fact from time to time you can still see those pesky signs on the highway, admonishing drivers “Slower Traffic Keep Right.”

I don’t think anyone even knows what that means anymore.  Because for some reason, Driver’s Education Class fell out of favor somewhere between the time I was a teen and my kids reached that epoch.  In fact it’s optional in some states now.

For my three teenagers, it was an extra class they could take if we wanted our insurance rates to be lowered, and we did, so they took it.

But in our daily conversations about what they’d learned in class, I was amazed to find that “Slower Traffic Keep Right” had been dropped from the “pertinent information” list.  It just wasn’t taught to them in class.  So I did my job as parent and taught it to them myself.

Maybe this really has nothing to do with age, since people of every stripe seem to be hanging out in the left lane.  Maybe it’s the attitude of entitlement we have going on in America, that if I want it it’s mine, and anyway I was here first  so I own this lane, no matter what lane it is.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal but people are dying over this little infraction and attitude.  As I travel the interstate several times a week I’m astounded to watch a certain  game play out.

There’s the oblivious one, plodding along in the left lane, on or about the speed limit, but there are two others doing the same thing, abreast of them in the lanes to the right.  A big SUV comes flying up on the rear of this scene and moves up on the one in the far left lane, expecting this turtle to get the message.  But they don’t, or they don’t care.

Anger burns, tempers flare, and traffic begins to pile up.  Eventually one of the three cloggers pulls back or forward just enough for everyone to begin rushing through the gap, swerving around the turtle in the far left lane, horns blaring, fingers raised.

Sometimes, just to teach them a little lesson, one of the more aggressive drivers will pull around and in front of the left lane turtle and slam on the brakes.  And sometimes the turtle wakes up enough to move over, or to get angry and the game escalates.

Since record numbers of us here in the Great State of Florida have our Concealed Weapons Permit, weapons are sometimes brandished, threats are made, shots are fired and people are killed.  It’s insane how quickly this scene can advance from simple selfishness to someone dying.

I try to avoid all this drama by staying in the far right lane, at or  slightly above the speed limit so as not to be in anyone’s way.  But since nobody seems to know the far left lane is the passing lane, I sometimes get tailgaters behind me as if I should move over!  And sometimes, just for peace sake, I do, even when I feel like jamming on the brakes to teach THEM a little lesson!

What’s the answer to this?  Maybe we could leave home 5 minutes earlier so we’re not in such a rush and so easily angered by people’s behaviors.  Maybe we can treat people will a little more grace, a little more civility and courtesy, even if they are an oblivious dope, or ignorant of the law.  Maybe, and this is a provocative thought,  we should all start paying a little more attention to DRIVING while driving.

And maybe we could spread the word, across this wonderful wide open country, along our tree-lined boulevards, among our jam-packed freeways, interstates, pikeways and highways,  with our own kids, spouses, and friends: “Slower Traffic Keep Right”!!!

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where was God 9/11?

Listening to the band “Earthsuit” during my morning bicycling trip, the lyrics “Jesus riding on a white horse, hero calling from the sky, I see Jesus riding on a white horse, with spare room for you and I, to fly!” were interrupted as I wheeled into the garage, by the incessant ringing of the house telephone.

Yanking off my CD player headphones, I grabbed the telephone to hear my husband Lee shouting, “Turn on the TV, America’s being attacked!

Now, as a citizen of the vast and unassailable United States of America, I couldn’t bring myself to take that concept very seriously.  I made no effort to rush indoors; instead I took my time removing my Keen hiking shoes, peeling off sweat drenched socks and refreshing my face in the sparkling waters of our backyard pool.

The telephone’s irritating encore drew me back inside the garage, Lee calling again to say he was genuinely concerned.  Since he was unable to get to a television himself would I pleeeeeease let him know what was going on?

Stepping inside, I turned on the TV in time to view the surreal image of a plane floating gently, slightly angled, slicing violently through the exploding glass of the second tower.

My first thought was for the safety of our children; and that our children needed to be home with us to experience whatever was to come.  It was important to us as parents that if we were facing a national crisis, we were the ones to present it to our children, to be with them to hear their emotions, to share our thoughts and views on the events, and to take our concerns together to the God who knew what was going on, since we obviously didn’t.

We had three children, one each in elementary, middle and high school at the time, so I raced from school to school, collecting each child, trying not to show on my face the anguish welling up inside.

Lee met us at home and we huddled around the TV to view the bizarre images, powerless to do anything but look on silently together.  We knew the one thing we could do was to join together as a family to pray for God’s intervention and mercy for everyone impacted by those cataclysmic moments.

Later, after everyone drifted off to beds and sleep, I was flooded with tears.  I’d already felt over my limit trying to raise three kids in a culture where god is what you wear and how much you possess; praying for wisdom to say and do the right things in front of them so I didn’t set the wrong examples with my own life.

How could I carry on with the image of those unsuspecting people dying so violently on a bright and beautiful September day and stave off the feeling that I was helpless to do anything that made any difference in a world like that?

How could I dare say to our children that God was in control, that he knew this thing was going to happen and he allowed it anyway, even had plans to use it for good?

The next day, a newspaper quoted an Afghan fellow saying the Afghan people would welcome America’s retaliatory bombs because they had no hope anyway.  They had no homes, no money and their children were starving, so death would be a welcome relief from their dreadful daily existence.

My reasons for living seemed a little precarious at that moment too, and as I read that
article, a solidarity with that man and his people began to take hold.  I’ve seen the world differently since then.

Over the next few days I realized the sun was still radiantly beaming in the softly clouded sky, although oddly void of air traffic.  The evening platinum tinged moon was waxing (or was it waning), the birds still sang their glorious melodies, and the leaves were beginning to fall from the trees in anticipation of winter.  God, it seemed, was still in complete control of his universe, everything obeying the programming their Creator  put in place before the beginning of time.

No matter how evil men might decide to act, God’s mercy and love was there for
anyone who chose to call on him as those dreadful moments unfolded, just as it has been, and it will be,  throughout history.

Stories of kindness, heroism and miracles spread; Americans came together as one nation, under God, indivisible by hate, for a while.  Nothing in God’s realm had changed, only I had a new perspective: that God uses unique circumstances to reveal himself and call us to a relationship with him, whether we enjoy and approve the technique he employs or not.

And I had a new compassion for a people half way across the globe, who like us wanted to love their family and live in peace as best they could with their fellow humans. For years many nations endured the terror we were just now experiencing on American soil, many as believers who called on Christ for God’s direction and authority to carry them through and see beyond the moment to God’s purpose in the  event.

The world grew smaller that peculiar 11th day in September.

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Parenting | Leave a comment

Is A Rose A Rose?

Who has beheld a rose, with any thought, that didn’t marvel at its grandeur, its perfect symmetry, its delicate beauty and heady aroma.  One such work of intricacy could only thrive on the finest of circumstances, one would assume.  And so, I assumed.

My first rose bush was a tea rose, chosen for its delicate fragrance and vibrant color.  Selecting a protected and shady location, I prepared the soil with extra care, enriching it with deep, dark,  nutrient rich earth, in an area that was always moist and only received the gentlest of filtered morning sunshine.

To my dismay, the bush quickly grew weak and spindly.  The more I watered and fertilized it, the more weak it became. The more I protected it, the more fragile it looked.

What I didn’t know is that roses thrive in adversity.  They prefer well draining, sandy soil with just a touch of organic enrichment.  They excel with infrequent, deep soakings from week to week. They thrive in six to eight hours of full, scorching sun.  And they do best with prudent fertilization  limited mostly to  spring and summer. 

And so it is with us.  How often do we cry out to God to protect us from this situation or that calamity, to take away our suffering and ease our woes so we may have a peaceful and happy existence.  Yet what does ease produce in us?  Rarely a thankful heart.  Seldom a strong character.  Never a person of compassion.

Adversity is where it’s at.  Adversity is where we come to the end of ourselves, we fall on our face, and we meet God there. How much more we cry out to God, how desperately we rely on him in suffering.  And how much we grow.  Like the rose.  We develop and bloom new strength, and new beauty,  in adversity.  And we find God to be who he says he is, when we wait on him to work circumstances out.

Dare to take the road of adversity, dare to look for God in the hard circumstance of life.   Ask him to show himself, and look for him in the pain.  He’s there, and he’s up to something good.  For your good.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, Nature | , , , , | 2 Comments


I’m a follower of Christ, wife, mom, writer, photographer, boater, skier, pygmy goat farmer.

As a writer, I harken back to the ones of old who locked themselves away in some remote cabin in the woods to write in privacy, isolation and most of all anonymity.  Fame and personal recognition would have appalled them, because they were all about the Word, the written word, and not the desire to be the center of attention, sometimes even writing under a pen name to ensure their privacy and solitude.

But then I realized that God has a lot to say to people and he might want to speak to them through me.

While I craved privacy, God instead called me to expose myself and what he has taught me as a human and as a mother through writing a book, just published, called “When They Go”.  It explores  how excruciatingly painful it was for me to let my children leave home, and what issues played into, what should have been a commonplace event, becoming the end of life as I knew it.

So here I am.  I believe in God.  I think he’s the Ultimate Scientist, the Ultimate Creator  and is pretty amazing in his sense of humor.  He’s always up to something good, no matter how odd it looks or how painful  it is.  And the more painful it is, the more potential we have for learning something we need to know to be a more effective human being.

While I’ll write with humor, with tongue in cheek, with all seriousness and sometimes with sarcasm, it’s always through the lens of what I believe about God and the world around me, and the order I see he’s given us, even in the chaos we create for ourselves and those around us.

So hello world.  I’m climbing on board the blog train.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Environment, Florida Outdoors, God in the everyday, On The Road, Parenting | , | 2 Comments