Leaf piles in my side yard

11 Things I Learned in October & November 2016

 

Leaf piles in my side yard

I’m so happy and privileged to include this post with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned link-up. Since she is now posting this quarterly and I usually try to post each month, in order to get the full story please be sure to check out my 10 Things I Learned in September 2016 post as well.

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In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel set up a reminder for the people of God, so that they would not forget his help in triumphing over the Philistines (after they turned away from their heathen gods):

 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” – 1 Samuel 7:12 (NLT)

I’d like to think of each, “What I Learned” post as a kind of “Ebenezer stone”, a place where I can stop and think not only of what I’ve learned each month, but what God is teaching me in this part of my journey.
My hope is that as I share what I’ve learned, you too will be encouraged, challenged, or even caused to let go of the stresses of life for just a few minutes.
So here’s what I’ve learned these past two months (serious or silly, in no particular order):

10 Things I Learned in October  & November 2016:

 

1. It has been claimed that egg whites will “heal” or protect burns, but in reality, it’s not the best (or even a safe), method.

So maybe this one should be classified as “almost learned”, since shortly after I heard of this idea, I also found out through minimal research that it should probably be avoided.

According to Snopes,

If egg white is at all effective in treating burns (and we’re not at all convinced that it is, 100+ year medical references to the contrary), it’s as an occlusive dressing that would keep contamination out of a raw wound, not as a magical curative of burned flesh. Its effect on the healing process wouldn’t have anything to do with its collagen content or that it’s a “placenta full of vitamins,” but rather that it’s a thickish liquid that would form a barrier. (In other words, motor oil — which has no collagen to it at all — would work equally as well.)

As to what to do with all this confusion, even when the burn is minor and the injury is fully cooled before anything else is done to it, there is a downside to coating such an injury with egg white. Raw eggs sometimes contain or have resident on their shells salmonella, a deadly bacteria. Introducing salmonella into an open wound would be a dangerous idea. Says a physician friend of ours, “Burn-injured, denuded skin is an excellent culture medium, and a contaminated egg white applied to his burn could readily cause severe damage or death to the patient.”

So before you get all excited to learn of another miraculous use for that extra dozen eggs you bought on sale, think twice! It would be wise to avoid the possibility of introducing a possibly even more serious issue into the burn in the form of salmonella.

2. My begonia plant is so much happier in a bigger pot!

begonia plant in small flower pot

Here’s the first pretty little pot to which I transferred my begonia (this photo is April 2014).

After perusing the web for information and pictures, I am fairly certain that my plant is a (somewhat) common wax begonia (or Semperflorens Begonia). I received this cute little flowering plant several years ago when a good friend of mine got married. She was the leader of our church women’s small group, and we wanted to have a special, more intimate wedding shower for our dear friend. Someone had the idea to give out these pretty plants for shower favors. We gave them to guests in a tiny little pot of some sort. Later, I re-potted mine into a bigger, but still small beautiful little flower pot where it lived and did surprisingly well for several years.

Fast forward to the end of this past summer, when I decided to give my poor, growing plant a little more “leg” (root) room. It seemed “happy” enough where it was, even flowering on occasion, but I could tell that it was really starting to outgrow it’s space. I found a larger pot in my basement, re-potted my begonia, and after a brief adjustment period, it started growing like a weed!

 

My bigger begonia plant

November 3, 2016.

My begonia - October

This is my happily growing begonia in a more roomy pot (October 31, 2016).

begonia

My happy, happy, thriving begonia!

 

 

As happy as I thought my plant was before, now I have a growing and really thriving plant! It is probably at least three times bigger and seems to never stop flowering now……it’s way of thanking me, I guess.

3. “Asking the right questions is an art form and it has a name: Social Jiu-Jitsu”.

In a world where online communication and social media is so prevalent, networking and building personal relationships face to face seems even more important. Whether we are just trying to connect personally with people we know and care for, foster good working relationships at a job, or build a brand or online business, making people feel you care and that they can trust you is critical.

I recently read this interesting and informative article online, which discusses this topic and describes the art of “social Jiu-Jitsu”, which is essentially asking someone the “right” questions to get them to open up. The author describes this as “getting people to like you”, and in reality it’s a really useful tool to learn to use if you wish to grow socially.

You probably can immediately think of someone you know who seems to naturally possess this gift. My mother and younger sister are two that come to mind right away. They both seem to be gifted naturally to ask others about themselves, whereas I and my oldest son have to purpose ourselves to interact with others in this less self-centered way.

It really seems to come down to just putting the other person first, which is something many of us (especially as Christians), aspire to do. Whatever our God-given personality, we can all learn and grow in this art.

4. Quinoa really is one of the most healthy and nutritious foods you can eat.

Have you been introduced to quinoa yet? (By the way, it’s pronounced, “keen-wa”, as recorded here, not “quin-oh-ah”, as I was apt to say at first.)

I tried this ancient grain for the first time several months ago, when I came across several recipes which included quinoa. It took a short time to get used to it, but now I enjoy it and even have a few quinoa recipes that I really like.

I had been told it is really healthy, but I really didn’t know why. In an educational article describing “11 Proven Health Benefits of Quinoa“, the author does a great job in explaining the many and very convincing traits of quinoa that make it uncommonly nutritious. It really is an extremely healthy food, and suggest you try it and join me in incorporating some into your diet.

5. Regretfully, there is a “sex mod” for Minecraft.

I came across this upsetting fact while reading a post one day online. The author is a parent and wanted to inform other parents of this news, so that they we can protect our children. She asked us to check it ourselves, and sure enough, it is true.

It’s really frustrating that even a good game like Minecraft has to have a negative counterpart.  It is disappointing that nothing is “sacred” anymore, not even an innocent children’s game.

However, after I expressed frustration about this to my husband (thinking it would ruin the game for kids everywhere), he assured me that a “mod” has to be purposely downloaded.

In other words, while it may be a temptation to older/more knowledgeable kids (who hopefully should know better or could be getting into far more trouble online already), it will not just pop up accidentally.

It doesn’t make me any happier about it, but at least many can still enjoy the game without incident. It also serves as another sobering reminder of the evil in the world we live in, and challenges parents and adults to be vigilant in teaching and protecting their young children.

6. Getting a good night’s sleep is so important (yet I’ve struggled with it for years).

I’ve been a night owl most of my life. Sometimes it’s fun and even productive, but overall it doesn’t serve me well. As most of my middle-aged friends can attest, good sleep doesn’t always come as easily as it did when we were younger. I’m thankful to not have insomnia or another more serious sleep issue, but I also find it frustrating and difficult that too often I struggle to get a decent night’s sleep.

Recently, I came across a free course online about how to sleep better. My almost immediate reaction was, “sign me up!” (You can sign up for it here too, if you like.)

The videos and lessons are short but packed with valuable information. What I didn’t know initially but found very interesting is how valuable naps can be. I’ve never been a good napper, but may need to try to utilize this form of rest more often.

My husband and father, on the other hand, have been experts at napping for years.

7. I can push myself (physically) harder than I thought, but it takes a lot out of me.

I’ve been exercising regularly now for quite a few years. I generally don’t go crazy, but am consistent and try to do moderate exercise several times a week. I also enjoy just moving, being outdoors and walking.

For the past several months, I’ve found great value and enjoyment in taking part in an online program for a Pilates exercise plan. We have a wonderful, sweet and knowledgeable instructor, and this program has helped me to become stronger and more disciplined, yet maintain a balanced lifestyle. (This is the website, if it sounds like something you’d like to check out.)

I decided to take a week-long “plunge”, and signed up for a more intense program which included recipes for a meal plan and longer Pilates workouts to be repeated for seven days in a row.

Well, I did it! It was difficult at times, but I’m proud to say that this 50-year old made it through!

I learned a lot about healthy and more balanced eating and a good deal about myself. Although I lost a few pounds and am definitely stronger, it did seem to take a lot out of me. It took me a few days to feel “recovered” and rested again.

It’s good to know that I can still push my body, but it needs to be balanced with rest and time to recuperate.

8. Poldark is my new favorite TV show.

My husband and I found another British television show we really enjoy watching together!

It’s really difficult to find good TV shows, (especially after my becoming a Downton Abbey fan). We watched the first season of Poldark by temporarily subscribing to the PBS website, then caught up and enjoyed the current season on television.

I hope the show continues to be mostly wholesome and enjoyable.

9. I finally learned the difference between white and yellow cake (and how to make your own mix).

Before now, I’m not sure I even knew there was a real difference between white and yellow cake (other than coloring).

One of my favorite blogs posted a wonderful new pumpkin dessert called “Pumpkin Dump Cake“, and I knew I had to try it. (It’s already become a favorite fall recipe in our household!) The recipe calls for a boxed yellow cake mix and I only had a white cake mix on hand. I decided to do a little research to see if my white cake mix would stand in for yellow in this recipe.

It seems that white cake is made with egg whites (no yolks), and sometimes a combination of butter and shortening (to keep it’s white, name-sake color). Yellow cake contains the whole egg and usually all butter, according to this post.

I also learned to make my own cake mix which will undoubtedly save money, be a healthier option, and save a trip to the store on occasions in which I find myself without a boxed cake mix on hand. (You can get that recipe here.) It’s too easy, and I actually know what the ingredients are that we are consuming. That’s a win!

10. I really like working at the library!

I am excited to share that I started a new part-time job! I’ve been in transition for the past couple of years or so, when my full-time job as an aide ended (after ten years). I’ve enjoyed several different jobs in the meantime that each ended after a few months, but all along I’ve thought that a library assistant position would be enjoyable and really suit me as my next job. I submitted many applications over the months, but never even got as far as an interview until now.

I’ve only worked about two weeks, and I can already tell that this is a near-perfect fit for me! While I still feel my most important “career” is housewife & mother (with a side of blogging), it feels good to again be doing a job that I think I’ll really enjoy!

tso-2016-2

11. Seeing TSO live is an absolutely phenomenal experience!

I apologize right now for those of you, like me, who will be slightly (or more) bothered by my not ending on # 10, but I had to add this one!

We were blessed and surprised this month by my husband purchasing tickets for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert! We’ve waited for years for this experience, and I tell you, it was well worth the wait!

Talk about a production!

Lights, loud rock rhythms and guitar licks, leather and long hair (often swaying to the beat of the music), laser-light effects, real fire (whose heat you could actually feel!), realistic video and beautiful background media, incredible choreography, quiet and classical elements, all combine to deliver an incredible concert. The artful fusion of rock, classical and theater provides a holiday show like no other!

One of my favorite things about TSO, is that they do not hold back on singing about the true story of the real meaning of Christmas. Traditional Christmas carols are brought to higher heights (in my opinion), and the musicians keep moving and entertaining throughout the entire show.

If you appreciate theater, dance, different styles of music (including some rather loud rock), and a unique and unforgettable Christmas concert, I hope you get a chance to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra someday. I’m so thankful for this fun family experience together.

tso-2016-4

tso-2016-12

Do I have your attention yet???

tso-2016-3

(If you find this at all appealing, check back a little later, when I will attempt to post a video to enhance your listening and viewing pleasure.)

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It’s been a busy, interesting, and productive couple of months. I wonder what December will bring?

 

 

willow tree angels and jar candle

Surrender to Christmas

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where you can enjoy a variety of short, mostly unedited writings on the prompt of, “surrender”, by a wonderful group of bloggers.

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willow tree angels and jar candle

Today we write on the prompt, “surrender”.

My first thoughts are very serious, deep and even “holy” when I think of the word, “surrender”.

But sometimes it’s best and even right to take a lighter, less pensive approach.

So today I choose to write on surrendering to Christmas.

Some of you may be taken aback or even recoil a bit in distaste. You may judge me for being too frivolous or having my priorities all wrong, but please let me explain.

I have always loved Christmas. It’s been the most special time of year and my favorite holiday for years. I even wrote my very first blog post on my experience with Christmas over the years.

I love it. I love the fun, the lightheartedness, the joy, the candles, the busyness, the baking, the music, wrapping gifts in the wee hours of the morning, the stockings, the decorations, watching my loved ones faces as they open a special gift, the lights, the singing, our Christmas tree and the snow.

putting up our Christmas tree

2015-12-04-00-00-12

colored lights decorating bedroom

Christmas food and hot beverages

 

baking cookies and Christmas decorations

 

Most of all, I love the true message of the real Christmas story.

 

Nativity decorations

As a disclaimer, I am not suggesting we should succumb to stress, greed, or wearing oneself out for the sake of the holiday (been there; done that). I don’t think the celebration was intended to be disliked and even hated, almost, by so many because it has become something negative or surrendering to way too many things we have to do. I don’t think this celebration was meant to be a time when we get so busy and preoccupied that we forget the true meaning and it negatively affects our attitude towards others (I’ve probably done a little too much of that, too), and our health (I used to get a yearly case of laryngitis after Christmas as a rule).

But I do enjoy the holiday. I really enjoy all the festivities and trimmings and activities.

And I intend to surrender, not to the chaos, but to the activities that bring joy to myself and to those around me. I plan to throw myself into this special celebration with all my heart and no guilt.

I especially love that the message of Christmas still goes out in a variety venues to much of the lost world. I love that no matter how much some try to stop or squelch it, people all over hear of the God who sent his own son Jesus down as a frail human, in order to live among us and show us the way back to him.

They can see and hear it in Christmas displays, Christmas carols and music, in television shows and in church performances. It is sung by innocent children, polished professionals, church congregations and choirs.

Christmas show on television

Christmas music cd

So my plan this year is to embrace all that this time of year has to offer. I aim to keep things in perspective and in some sort of balance, but rather than fret or stress or bog myself down with questions, burdens and regrets, I want to enjoy this special holiday.

I chose to surrender to Christmas, and to the One who started it all.

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Do you love Christmas? Do you find it stressful and exhausting, or does it give you joy and gladness to celebrate? What can we do differently in order to prioritize the true meaning of the season?

 

 

 

 

Dayspring Fullness of Grace ecard

One Way I Celebrate Thanksgiving All Year Long

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

 

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For my Canadian friends and family who celebrated Thanksgiving over a month ago, this is the season in which they have been leisurely getting ready for Christmas for weeks already. Meanwhile, we in the US are entering that crazy, festive, between-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas-Day rush and frenzy, attempting to cram all the good celebrations of two big holidays into just under a month…..but I digress.

Regardless of when (or how rushed) you celebrate the special holiday of giving thanks, I think it’s one of the best traditions we honor. We are so abundantly blessed, especially in this part of the world where I’ve been told that about 20% of us enjoy about 80% of the wealth.

But even better than our physical blessings, are the unseen gifts that we are privileged to enjoy every day.

Love, joy, freedom, forgiveness, salvation, comfort, friendship and humor just to name a few, all free but priceless blessings we must not take for granted.

Each November, one of the traditions I’ve kept now for several years came about as a suggestion from a friend on Facebook. The challenge was to post a list of things I was thankful for every day from November 1st until Thanksgiving Day, each day using words starting with each corresponding letter of the alphabet from A to Z. That was fun (and good practice for Scrabble games), and a good practice in being thankful for more than just one day.

A couple of years ago, my sister started a similar practice (also on Facebook), but instead decided to take a special photo each day and post her gratitude visually with an apt description. For a family who loves photography (and especially likes to share it online since we all live far apart), this idea was appealing. So I’ve been doing something along these lines each day in November for the past couple of years.

This year my online Pilates instructor challenged us to record three things each day we are thankful for, and being a quiet rebel and photography lover I decided to post one or more photos on Facebook instead of writing them. I include a list or description of three things I am thankful for. I have to say that my Facebook friends seem to really enjoy this, and I think it inspires them to be thankful, too.

While all these practices are good, what about the rest of the year?

While I like having a special time or holiday set aside each year to give special focus and attention to something or someone good, shouldn’t our hearts overflow with thanksgiving every day of the year???

Several years ago I started what I like to call a gratitude journal.

It was inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, which I read and studied along with my church women’s small group. It was inspirational to say the least, and has helped me to be thankful every day.

Since then, I have attempted to record at least three things each day in my journal, starting my day off with an attitude of gratitude that seeps into the rest of my day. I don’t always remember or take the time, but overall it is a practice I highly recommend.

Another of my favorite inspirational authors and bloggers, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom also encourages her readers to follow her example and keep this daily habit. She even created her own gratitude journal which you can purchase, but any journal or notebook will do.

Here’s what mine looks like:

live laugh love journal

Some of the things I record are more serious, while others are just little things that I enjoy in the moment.

enjoy the little things plaque and candle

But overall, it helps me to be more aware of all of the blessings I find around me each and every day.

gratitude list

This is one way I celebrate Thanksgiving all year long.

I hope you will join me.

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Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? Do you need help (as I do) to remember to keep a grateful heart? What are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

hot pink mums

Learning to Enjoy God’s Will

hot pink mums

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday on the prompt, “Enjoy”.

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When I was a child, I often felt that to simply enjoy life was not the “holy” thing to do.  In my efforts to please God, I often thought if it wasn’t hard I must not really doing the right thing. I knew I needed to be willing to sacrifice in order to do His will.

Now there is a truth there. Being a Christian does mean I’ve made a choice to give my life to God, live by his standards and instructions, and follow his plan for my life. It may even be difficult (no actually, it will sometimes be difficult), and at times requires sacrifice.

But the longer I am alive, I am starting to understand that just because I enjoy something doesn’t mean I’m being selfish.

Could it actually be that the God who created me; the One who designed me and formed me in my mother’s womb, planning my days before I was even born, gave me desires that would align with his perfect plan for my life?

 

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.”

Psalm 139:13-16, NLT

This is a hard lesson for one with a natural bent towards seeing the “shoulds” much easier in life that the “want to’s”. I am even guilty of reflecting this thought to those around me whom I love.

But I am even now discovering that although there will always be hardships, God really does want me to enjoy my life.  He designed me with a purpose that fits me so well, as I learn to walk in it I will be more happy and satisfied because I’m living out the real “me”.

There will still be times of hardship, suffering, discipline and even sacrifice, but even then I will maintain that deep joy that comes from knowing I’m exactly where He wants me to be.

God, help me to enjoy the person you’ve made me to be, and to live out the purpose you have for me. Don’t let me waste the gifts, strengths and personality you’ve given me by trying to live someone else’s life.  Let me enjoy doing the good you’ve called me me to do.

Amen.

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Do you feel like doing God’s will is hard, or are you able to step out in your gifts and talents and enjoy doing the good purposes for which you were created?

fall sunlight through trees with barn

To Those Who Are Hurting

 

fall sunlight through trees with barn

I see so many around me hurting.

Some of them I know, and some are still strangers, but they’re out there.

We’ve just come through a tumultuous election and it seems the discord, dislike and distrust are still rampant. There are many with fears and those who seem to have lost hope.

darkening sky at sunset

But I know many who are experiencing an even greater sadness. Recently, they have lost someone dear to them.

More than one family that I know are living in the aftermath of an unexpected loss of a loved one. And that is one of the hardest griefs to bear.

fall field grass

We sang this song in worship on Sunday. I was ministering with our worship team, so I heard and sang it over and over.

And when I got home, I realized there was a message of hope and help in it that could bring some small healing to the hearts of those I care about.

Listen to this version of, “Lord I Need You”.

The lyrics, “I need you; oh, I need you” are a familiar refrain to many of us who have sung them from our youth.

But they are ever true.

sun hitting bare tree branches against blue sky

When we are experiencing a loss or in the midst of grieving we may feel this “need” more acutely, but in reality it’s always present.

I am reminded of the wise words of one of the former presidents of the Bible college I attended.

He was a stately man of Welsh decent, and had a gift for articulating thoughts in such a meaningful way. He was the type of man who could speak truth so succinctly that it would give you something to think about for days, and even stay with you for life.

One such time was in chapel after we had just sung the words of an old chorus, “As the Deer“, which come from the scripture in Psalms 42:1.

“As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee”

You can read the story behind that chorus here.

barn and pasture in late afternoon sun

Our president shared that the intent of the scripture wasn’t that the deer waits until it’s almost too late or it’s been without water so long that it can barely go on, but that the deer desperately needs the consistency of water every day of it’s life.

So are we with God.

We may feel our need for God more passionately in times of stress, hardship and pain, but what the Bible is getting at is that we need God and his Word in our lives always.

It needs to be as the food we eat and the air we breathe.

And just as all living things need water to live, so we will die without him in our lives.

He is our Source, our Comfort, our Strength, and our Song. He leads us and goes before us, carries us when we are weak, gives us the strength and wisdom to carry on, and stays with us at all times.

If you are in a season of uncertainty or pain, let me leave you with a few lines from “Lord I Need You”.

 

“Without you I fall apart.

You’re the one who guides my heart.”

 

Every hour I need you.”

 

“When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You.

Jesus, you’re my hope and stay.”

 

Our hope has never been in the people who lead the country, nor in the circumstances of our lives.

My prayer for you is that in your greatest hour of urgency as well as in your daily need, you will call out to God, let yourself fall on him, and put your trust in His mighty, unending, sacrificial love for you.

 

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trail in woods with morning sun

Journey

trail in woods with morning sun

Today’s post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up on the prompt, “journey”.

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Life is made of so many journeys.

Some are happy and joy-filled and some are difficult and laced with pain.

  • The journey of a small embryo as he/she grows into a full-size baby.
  • That painful journey from the safety and darkness of our mother’s womb into the bright but scary real world.
  • Our early childhood and formative years.
  • The tumultuous journey from childhood to adulthood, called adolescence.
  • Our journey of learning through education.
  • The journey of career training and job choices.
  • Many journeys of relationships, especially if one chooses to marry.
  • The ever-challenging, yet abundantly rewarding  journey of having and raising children, if we dare.

There are journeys within these journeys of life as well; emotional and mental journeys made up of experiences and our reactions to them, among other factors.

But one journey stands out to me most: my spiritual journey.

That is the path that leads me through life, either towards or far away from God.

This is the journey that I chose to prioritize, even though it is unseen.

It is the journey that will affect me the most, and bring hope and healing or hurt and pain to those around me.

Thankfully, I have a Guide and a guidebook to help me along the path.

 

Psalm 23 (NLT)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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