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How To Remain Loyal

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I am a Canadian by birth, who is proud to live with my family in the USA.

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday.

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Loyal.

The word conjures up images of soldiers and flags to some. But we all have a responsibility to become or remain loyal.

The definition of loyal is “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.

Isn’t loyalty one of the character traits that we profess to desire?

To whom do I give or show “firm and constant support or allegiance”? How can I remain loyal?

Here are some of the people/institutions to which I wish to remain loyal:

  • God
  • my husband
  • my sons and other family members
  • friends
  • co-workers
  • my church
  • my country (and the country I live in)
  • teams or groups to whom I am committed (and for some, teams they love or feel they are represented by)

Just to clarify, while I have made a lifetime commitment to God, my husband, and my family, others on the list may change according to the season in which I find myself. I still have a firm commitment to my church, for instance, but I cannot guarantee that I will be a member there for life.

I can try to be loyal in my own strength, but as much as I wish to, I am an imperfect human. So I need some help.

Why not ask the One who is the completely and perfectly loyal God for help?

My Heavenly Father not only acts loyal; he is loyal. He’s the only one who exemplifies godly qualities perfectly, because they are part of his unchanging character.

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“Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.

-Mark 10:27, NLT

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While I consider myself to be a loyal person, I also recognize that I cannot do anything perfectly in my own strength. Sometimes I do OK. Sometimes I falter. Other times I outright fail.

And so, I will ask my faithful God to help me to remain loyal to those to whom I owe my allegiance.

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Olympic Rings 2016 (Rio)

Whose Team Are You On?

Olympic Rings 2016 (Rio)

I’m joining my blogging friends over at Five Minute Friday today to write for five minutes on the prompt, “team”.

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Whose team are you on?

If you’re like me, you may be thinking that you really weren’t a part of many teams, especially if you were not that “into” sports.

But think about it.

We’re all on a team. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’re part of more teams than you were aware of.

How about the team of your family, the team you work with, your large church team and smaller community/small group teams? You have a team of friends (hopefully some close ones), and a more casual team of acquaintances. Can you be a team member anywhere you find yourself, with those around you who need a team-mate?

My encouragement to all of us today is to be part of the team we are on.

Wherever we are; whoever we are with; just BE part of the team!

Be all there.

Be present.

Be a participant.

Be a cheer-leader.

Be a good friend.

Be a wonderful wife.

Be the best mother.

Be a helpful co-worker.

Be that kind stranger.

You and I are all on many teams.

Let’s do whatever we can and whatever we’re good at; let’s be whatever we are meant to be on our “teams”.

Your team needs you.

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Lift

Sky with purple, pink and blue with tree branches

Today I’m writing on the prompt, “lift” with some Five Minute Friday friends.

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There are many things I think of when I hear the word, “lift”.

Because of the stage of the journey I’m in right now, I’m thinking about the burdens we lift and carry.

We carry many burdens, some by choice and some by circumstance, but we must lift them like a heavy weight.

In some cases, a necessary burden can make us stronger…..if we were meant to lift it.

We have burdens that fall within our range of responsibility, and then there are those we chose to lift up and either hoist to our bending shoulders, or drag along behind us.

If a burden is ours to bear, God promises to be with us and help us to carry it. Like a healthy muscle, we will get stronger, as long as we have the support we need.

But I believe we lift up many burdens that were not meant for us to carry. And over time, those burdens leave us feeling weak, tired, worn out, disillusioned, unhealthy, discouraged, angry, or even depressed.

Have you ever read the book, “Boundaries” (by Dr. Henry Cloud), or done a study on this topic? It is so critical that we figure out which burdens are ours, and to which tasks or roles we need to answer a firm but loving, “no”.

Our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health depend on it.

Our Father promised that if we are carrying the responsibilities that he planned for us, they will be light.

“For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

-Matthew 11:30, NLT

Not necessarily easy or free of pain, but light, because as we carry our necessary duties, he will carry us.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”

-Isaiah 40:11, NLT

And he sends us his Holy Spirit to comfort us when we are in need.

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever”

-John 14:16, KJV

Thanks be to God that he is the “lifter” of my head!


“But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,

My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

-Psalm 3:3, NKJV

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wooden Adirondack chair

His Love Changes Everything

wooden Adirondack chair

Yesterday we rested in this place; my husband in his new Adirondack chair, and I in the plastic green one.

But today I awoke to unrest.

A simple occurrence in the otherwise mundane hours of a Monday morning sent my heart racing just minutes after I awoke.

My trust and peace were tested.

But I pressed on with my morning, intentionally turning next to my devotional reading with a song that showed up in my inbox for today.

 

You can listen to the song here:

And for those who want or need to see the lyrics, here they are.

 

Through the lively worship, the upbeat music, and the encouraging, truthful lyrics, my spirit was lifted, my heart encouraged, and my joy and peace began to return.

“His love changes everything.”

My emotions can turn at the slightest waver in my routine of regular, everyday life, but my faith and trust in a loving Father remain.

Though situations may bring doubt, fear and uncertainty or sometimes joy and elation, His love truly does change everything.

Because it changes me.

This song is a call to “come”; all those who feel broken, all who call God their Father and are his sons and daughters.

Don’t run away; avoid being pulled in all directions by fear, disappointment and distraction; just come.

Our life circumstances may not change. Events may be frightening or cause grief; the repetitious routine of ordinary life may be tedious or dull, or we may find ourselves in a rare place of felt peace and happiness, and even apparent lack of need.

Wherever we are, let’s come.

Because I don’t know about you, but I need God’s love to change everything. I would like it if some circumstances would change, but I need a heart change.  I need a mind change. I need to learn trust.

And what better place to put my trust.

 

I have a God who promises to never leave me.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

‘I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you’ “

-Hebrews 13:5, NLT

He promises not to give me more than I can bear.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

-1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT

But he loves me too much to let me remain stagnant in my comfort zone.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

-Romans 5:3-5, NLT

 

When we come to Him, his love changes everything.

 

So, come.

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You can purchase this song (or the entire album in MP3 format), here:

 

I hope you enjoy this music and are blessed.

my cat Buster and I

What Makes Me Happy?

Today I’m linking up with some wonderful bloggers at FiveMinuteFriday, writing on the prompt, “happy”.

 

my cat Buster and I

Me and Buster.

Happy.

It’s a simple word, but why is it often so difficult to attain in our daily life?

As a somewhat serious person and a Christian, the obvious way to discuss happiness is to contrast this emotion with the deep, everlasting joy that can be ours no matter what the circumstances. I would also mention that if you are not able to feel much happiness, please take care of yourself until you can, and/or get the appropriate help as needed.

But besides all that serious stuff, sometimes I feel like it’s good and healthy, and helpful to just do something everyday that makes you feel happy.

No, our true happiness isn’t based on emotion, but we are real, flesh and bone people with real, sometimes raw emotions. It’s a good practice to care for our body, mind and soul, as well as our spirit. And it’s OK to “help” our emotions along in a practical way.

enjoy the little things

So here are some things that “help” my emotions to feel happy:

  • a nice, hot cup of good coffee
  • some slow, quiet time to myself
  • ice-cream (yes; I even scare my husband with how much this helps me)
  • some “girlfriend” time
  • spending time in nature, God’s wonderful creation
  • doing something creative
  • getting some rest and/or a good sleep
  • reading a good book
  • watching a good movie or favorite TV show
  • petting one (or both) of my cats
  • doing some exercise that I love
  • looking at and enjoying photos, the memories of my life
  • wearing something that makes me smile
  • watching “my” humingbirds
  • doing something with my family

These are just a sample of things I do that make me feel happy. And when we feel happy, it helps us to move in a positive direction and do the more important things in our lives.

My Bible verse-of-the-day today is this:

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

– Ephesians 5:1-2, NLT

 

I believe that one way we can “imitate God” and “live a life of love” as Jesus did, is to just be happy.

It’s a decision, and one that some of us need to be more purposeful about.

Here’a to a happy day!

 

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Some things to think about (and comment, if you please):

What do you do to help you to feel happy? Do you notice that if you make yourself feel happy, you are more able to cope and do the things you know you should do? If you’re a Christ-follower, do you think that Jesus had a mostly “happy” demeanor?

 

 

 

 

water and sky reflection

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016

It seems like such a long time since I wrote a “What I Learned” post. Well, it’s time for a look at the past two lovely summer months of June and July. Some points are serious, some are completely not serious, and some are just other “stuff”. Here goes!

 

water and sky reflection

 

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016:

 

1. Turning 50 was both harder and better than I thought.

I guess you could say I celebrated a “milestone” birthday this June, as I turned fifty years old. I’ve never been one to mind much about my age or getting older, but I must admit that this half century mark did hit me a little harder than I thought it would. I had a few moments (like on the evening before, when I realized that I had only hours left in my forties), that made me feel “old”. But overall, I decided to live it up and make the whole thing into an ongoing party. I announced my birthday age online (on Facebook), and invited my friends who are also turning fifty this year to join me in celebrating…..all year long! If you can make a big deal out of any birthday, I think this is the one! I think I’ve earned a little extra celebrating for living for one half century.

50 Years Well Lived

 

2. An hour or so on (or by) water will make up for several hours of stress.

When I originally wrote this point, I had just spent a couple hours with one of my girlfriends, part of which consisted of a lovely hour kayaking on a local “pond” (think “small lake”). I don’t remember how I was feeling at the time, except that afterwards, I was so de-stressed! The combination of some good exercise, the relaxing atmosphere, and time spent catching up with a friend were invaluable and very therapeutic! I’ve always known this about spending time near the water, but especially noticed on that day what a positive change it caused in my body, mind and soul.

kayaking with water fowl in background

3. Bunnies are so cute!

OK, who doesn’t think bunnies are cute??? (Well, there are probably a few gardeners or farmers who are not particularly thrilled with their eating habits, but besides that…..) Each spring and summer, we seem to have a few rabbits who live in or at least near our yard. We really enjoy watching them. One evening while we were eating our supper, we saw one, then two…..then three bunnies hopping and chasing each other all over our neighbor’s yard. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They seemed to be having an awfully fun time!

three rabbits on the lawn

 

4. I like almond milk better than “regular” (cow’s) milk.

A few months ago, I started regularly purchasing a small quantity of almond milk for myself. I think I had heard that it was easier to digest than regular cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a try. I quickly grew to like it. I also discovered that it has twice the calcium and less sugar than regular dairy milk (just read the labels), so it seemed like a good thing. One day when we had no almond milk, my son poured me a glass of 1% cow’s milk. I was surprised to have the realization that it tasted “different” now, and I no longer liked it as well as my almond milk, even though I grew up as a (cow’s)”milk drinker”. Luckily, my three men haven’t acquired the taste, so it remains affordable enough for me to keep on hand.

5. Some quality friendships are only for a season, but that’s OK (and it doesn’t make them any less special).

I’m not sure what made me think of this exactly, but it is a more positive way for me to think about relationships that seem to have grown “stale” or that are simply too distant in physical miles to maintain on a regular basis. I’m a faithful person by nature, and also feel very sentimental about any relationships I’ve had in my life, especially those with friends with whom I’ve been fairly close. I have come to realize that just because a close friendship seems to have “ended” or is just not practical for this stage in life, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a “real” or meaningful relationship; it may just have been special for a time. I can live with this.

2016-06-15 01.32.32

6. I really like my Himalayan salt lamp.

Have you joined the craze of owning a Himalayan salt lamp yet? I tend to be somewhat cynical of ads about products like this having real health benefits, but after a little research, it seems there may just be something to it. I read an article on WebMD that gives some interesting information, after my online Pilates instructor wrote a post about her thoughts on Himalayan salt lamps, and I decided to give one a try. Since it was birthday time, I asked for it for a gift, which my sons graciously purchased for me. I’m not sure, but it seems like I’ve awakened feeling a little less groggy after using it in our bedroom at night, perhaps. I am still formulating an opinion as to whether or not it really works, but at the very least, it creates a nice ambiance in our room (and makes a great “night-light” if one of us comes up to bed and the lights are already off).

7. A thoughtful surprise gift means so much to me.

When it comes to love languages, gifts has always been one of mine. I love to both give and receive gifts, and I’ve known this about myself ever since I was a child. Shortly before my fiftieth birthday this June, a friend I met through an exercise program online asked me for my address, and wouldn’t you know, on the exact date of my birthday, I received a small package from her. She learned about my special birthday and wanted to bless me with a piece of handmade jewelry. She sent me a cross necklace, with the words “faith” and “believe” on either side of the pendant. I was so touched and blessed and had to share my precious gift on social media. This is a great reminder to go ahead and just do that thoughtful thing when it comes to mind, because you never know how it could make someone’s day. I know that this gift sure made my day special!

surprise birthday gift in mail

(If you’re interested in seeing my friend’s line of hand-made inspirational jewelry, here’s a link to her Etsy shop.)

8. Almond milk creamer should NOT be used as infant formula.

I couldn’t resist adding this one! For the record, I do NOT have an infant right now, and furthermore, even as a young mom, I would NOT have tried this. But on the back of my almond creamer container (of a well-known brand), I noticed this interesting disclaimer in red letters:

warning on almond milk creamer

“NOT TO BE USED AS INFANT FORMULA”

Well, duh!

I guess someone, somewhere must have thought it was a good idea at some point…..or else the company is just proactively avoiding a crazy lawsuit. So just in case you’ve ever wondered, don’t try this one at home, kids!

9. You can pack a lot of fun into a one-week vacation. 

This summer our family vacation was special, but a little shorter than usual. Due to the fact that our sons were both working, we shortened our time to just one week away (while my husband and I took some extra time off during the next week at home). We were happy that they were able to take the time off to come with us, as we know that our family vacations with them are limited as they grow older.

To some, this may sound like plenty of time, but due to the distance we usually travel to visit with family (a day’s drive to get to my parents’ home in Ontario), we end up losing the two days spent traveling to and from our destination. This time, we arrived at my parents’ house before they came home from a trip in order to have some “alone” time with just our sons (and to keep an eye on cats and plants). When my parents arrived home, we welcomed them and enjoyed a couple days with them. Next we crossed back over the border and spent the last couple days with my sister.

In that single week, we managed to cram in a lot of pretty good stuff.

We relaxed and read some, watched a movie, visited my Grandma, shopped for special Canada “treats”, ate out a lot, drank more than our fair share of Tim Horton’s coffee, picnicked at Dufferin Islands near Niagara Falls, visited Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls (part museum; mostly tropical bird emporium), enjoyed a leisurely shopping day in quaint Niagara-On-the-Lake (including driving by the house where my dad’s parents lived), “caught up” with a dear friend,  shared a day out with my sister (out to a nice dinner for my fiftieth birthday, spending time near the lake, visiting and photographing my cousin’s church and eating wonderful homemade ice-cream), picked fresh blueberries, had a campfire, learned how to “creek walk” (see next post), made some cards, created some music, and enjoyed real buffalo wings at least twice. I can’t believe how much fun we packed into our vacation week!

Dufferin Islands sign

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Entrance to Bird Kingdom, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Bird Kingdom

Niagara Falls barrel photo

homemade ice cream

Sisters together at Crystal Beach, Ontario

10. “Creek-walking” is a blast!

While visiting my sister and her family in the state of NY, we learned the skill of “creek-walking”. We piled into our two vehicles, made our way to an access point at a local creek, inflated several inner tubes, and began to take turns floating down the shallow river. It was fun, mildly exhilarating at times, and quite funny (the larger adults like me ended up getting stuck on the river bottom in shallow areas). Some of the older boys managed to get so far ahead down the river that we sent my husband and a helper out after them; not knowing they cut through and walked back, we nearly lost each other. But in the end it was just good, clean, country fun! We only lost one tube to the jagged rocks and sticks that were poking out, which was a fair trade off for a memorable adventure together.

floating down the creek in tubes

Learning to “creek-walk” with our family was a blast!

11. A good boss is better than a “first-choice” job.

This is a lesson I’ve been learning myself these past couple of years with my various job changes. My husband and I are also teaching this to our sons right now, who are training for one of their first summer jobs. Although there are parts of the job they do not care for, we have been discussing the fact that the good supervisors they seem to have outweigh any parts of the job that they currently “dislike”. Sometimes in work and even in life we have to accept the “bad” or “imperfect” along with the pleasant and the preferred. We are thankful to be working for bosses who seem to genuinely care for their employees and treat them well.

12. Amazon really looks like they’re “taking over the world”.

Here’s the photo “proof”:

three Amazon delivery trucks

It looks like Amazon is taking over the world! 😉

This was the view outside of our window one fine Sunday afternoon. We order a fair amount of product from Amazon, but not enough to justify three trucks showing up all at once in front of our house. Since there was nothing for us this time, we never did quite figure out what was going on that day. It sure gave us something to talk about.

13. It’s really important to check your sales receipt.

I can’t say that I always do it, but I try to check my sales receipt after shopping, especially for grocery orders in which I was supposed to receive a certain discount or cash back award. Recently, I have been shopping at our local supermarket a bit more, due to lack of time to travel to a further store, and because I seem to be getting some pretty decent deals (see next post, as well). I noticed that on several of the last few trips I did not receive the correct price or in one case, a sizable cash-back offer, but thankfully their customer service reps took care of it without question. It makes me happier to shop there knowing this, but I will still have to be sure to try to check each receipt. Mistakes can happen!

14. Getting a huge gas discount makes grocery shopping worthwhile.

One of the the benefits we’ve been taking advantage of recently, is the “gas points” earned for spending money at our local supermarket. They have a gas station next door, and depending on the amount you accumulate in purchases (along with some “special” awards for extra points), we have been able to save a decent amount on some fill-ups. The best one we earned so far was 90 cents off, and we just missed a whole $1.30 discount, because we didn’t realize when some of the points were expiring. I’m finding out that even if this is not always the cheapest store for grocery prices, the gas discount is a worthwhile additional savings!

15. Your poop reveals a lot about your health.

Sorry for the “TMI”, but recently I had seen this chart online, which I guess is frequently used in medical situations to determine the “quality” of one’s bowel movements. After the second time, the chart caught my attention, and somehow (please don’t even ask), I got to reading some interesting and informative posts about what our “poop” reveals about our overall health. It turns out this “everyday event” can be a real indicator of some health concerns. For some reason, it’s not something we ordinarily like to discuss, but it may be worth a read……especially if you are prone to reading in the bathroom. 😉

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Well, once again I have surprised myself with how many new things I’m learning. What have you been learning and discovering this summer?