my wet black mailbox with white post

Liquid Beauty

This post has been created for The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, where the prompt for the week is liquid.

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A rainy day this week provided all the opportunities I needed for my liquid photos, right in my front yard.

 

my wet black mailbox with white post

 

 

wet copper hummingbird feeder

 

 

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

 

 

raindrops on dwarf blue leaf arctic willow

 

 

magic carpet spirea in the rain

 

 

raindrops on car window and mirror

 

Beauty can be found anywhere, even in the rain.  We just need eyes to see and hearts that are open.

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shoe rack under windowsill with potted herbs

Place in the World

Today I’m trying something new. I’m participating in The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is Place in the World.

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Where do I belong? Where is my Place in the World?

My initial response is at home.

our shoes under kitchen window

…with my three tall, wonderful men,

cat and slippers

cat on chair pillow

…and my two boy kitties.

 

And although I love my home here in New England, I come from a neighbouring country.

coffee on car dash

Whenever I cross the border,

Canada US customs

…I feel a sense of relaxed belonging, even after twenty-plus years of living here in the US.

I still have family there, especially my parents, a 100-yr. old grandmother, and many close relatives and friends.

And on some vacations, if we keep driving north, we reach one of my favourite places on the earth, the Algonquin Park area. It’s a place shared by my original family and the one I’m part of now with my own husband and sons. We still meet here together with my parents and sister’s family and make new memories to add to those collected over the years.

We stay in cabins and soak in the beauty of nature for a week…

cottage dock at Oxtongue Lake

…relaxing,

Oxtongue Lake rowboat and neighbour cottage dock

…having fun together,

Oxtongue Lake evening canoe ride

…admiring the tranquility of God’s grande creation.

So if you ask me where I belong, I will tell you that these places inspire feelings of familiarity, comfort and peace.

But the greatest thing that unites them all is my family.

They are my place in the world.

Place in the World

Family plaque and photo

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bush shaped like a heart

Learning to Adapt My Dreams

bush shaped like a heart

Writing today for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where our word prompt is adapt.

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Do you have dreams?

I’m not sure I always do. In fact, a few months ago when I read or heard somewhere a question to challenge us to think about what was holding us back from our dreams, I realized with some dismay that I feel like lately I haven’t had any.

I naturally tend to get caught up in life’s busyness and “shoulds”, and often forget to dream for something bigger.

And I totally believe that there are some of us, in certain seasons, where we need to adapt our dreams to something bigger; something that only God can help us to accomplish.

But equally important, what if we were to accept the “regular” life we have right now, with all of it’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, as God’s dream for our lives?

I read two different blog posts this past week that encouraged me to think a little differently.

One reminded me that God’s dream for me may be the life I’m living right now; the other spoke about how all of life is art and that we grow closer to God’s purposes for us in the mundane tasks of everyday life.

One of my favorite songs from Switchfoot challenges me that this is the life I’ve always dreamed of, or at least it can be.

 

 

So instead of focusing on the future, on what may yet to be (as wonderful or ordinary as it may turn out), I am learning to adapt my dream to the amazing and complex and awesome life that God has given me right now.

I pray that I may live each day to the fullest, accept God’s plan for my days, and choose to do the next right thing along the way.

May I adapt my dreams to love the life I’m living.

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If you’ve enjoyed this song, you may purchase the song or the album on which it appears, The Beautiful Letdown.

What to Do When You Feel Stuck

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word prompt of the week is stuck.

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When I read the word “stuck” as our word prompt for this week’s link-up, it immediately resonated with me.

It wasn’t a completely encouraging realization, but it helped me to understand how I’ve been feeling lately.

We had a crazy year last year in some ways. I had a finger injury and surgery in the spring (which was a big deal for this non-medical-procedure-loving person), and then my husband had heart bypass surgery in the fall (which was obviously a much bigger deal!).

While I’m thankful that both my little surgery and my husband’s big surgery resulted in good recovery and improved health (it literally probably saved his life!), I’ve felt behind and overwhelmed since then. Even though, overall, things are going well, it seems like I’m still catching up.

I’ve felt like I can’t get ahead with decluttering, cleaning and organizing my home, my blog has been somewhat neglected as of late, and it seems like we’re just getting by in a lot of ways. I’ve been experiencing some different emotions lately and trying to figure them out as well. I think it’s just the “leftovers” from a trying year.

I wrote a post awhile back about what to do when your emotions are fickle, and I often realize I should read some of my own words for encouragement.

One day this week when the sun finally came out and I felt some spring warmth, it really lifted my spirits. I read some encouraging words of truth and that also helped me feel so much better. My husband and I completed one month of a good, healthy diet, and that made me feel good both physically and emotionally.

Sometimes we feel “stuck” for big, important reasons, and at other times, we can’t find a reason for our feelings or we struggle to understand exactly why.

So I’m writing this to myself, in the hopes that perhaps it will help someone else who’s feeling “stuck”, too.

These are some of the things that help me when I’m feeling “stuck”:

  1. Read or listen to some encouraging words of truth, and pray. – If you read the bible and pray, you will be reminded of how God feels about you and of his promises. Don’t forget to be quiet and listen as well. If you are not a believer, you can read something that lifts your spirits and/or reminds you of how special you are. You can also meditate on all you have for which to be thankful.
  2. Listen to music and/or do something life-giving. – Most of the time, a little good music goes a long way to helping me to feel better. I also find that doing something creative makes me feel alive. Spending some time outside in nature really feeds my soul.
  3. Spend time with those you love and/or those who are good at what you’re struggling with. – Being with people who like you always seems to help emotionally, and if I can chat with someone who’s been where I am or can help me with my problem, that is precious.
  4. Take a baby step. – Just do one thing to move in the right direction. This is so true of decluttering and cleaning, but works in most situations. Doing “the next right thing” can help us go from “stagnant and stuck” to at least progressing in our area of difficulty.
  5. Ask for and accept help when needed. – Sometimes we can’t do it alone. Whether it be a loved one, a trusted friend or even a professional, sometimes we just need a little help. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re imperfect and need support.
  6. Take care of yourself. – Often we are just in need of a good sleep or a nap, we need to take a break or even a vacation, or we can simply be hungry or thirsty. Sometimes we can boost our TLC with a healthy diet and some exercise. We aren’t any good to anyone else when we are not caring for ourselves.
  7. Give yourself grace. – This doesn’t mean to stay in a non-productive or negative state, but it’s OK to be nice to ourselves and recognize that there are times when we need time to process, think or heal.

These are just a few tips that I will continue to try to put into practice.

If we make even a small effort to do something positive, we will not remain stuck for long.

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Blue and pink sunset

All The Other Things

Blue and pink sunset

 

This post has been written for the Five Minute Friday link-up (even though it’s not Friday), where the word prompt of the week is other.

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Sometimes it seems my life is consumed by all the other things.

Does this happen to you? At the end of many a day, I realize (and sometimes complain aloud), that the thing I really wanted to get done didn’t happen.

I know I’m not alone. And I know it’s not easy.

But I desire to do more with my days than just all the other things.

Yes, I know that life is busy, and that responsibilities require us to give much of our time to things that may seem mundane, yet we need to find a way to do the things that matter.

Of course there are circumstances and seasons where we have little to no choice. Having a new baby or more than one young child, being the sole provider for your family, nursing a sick loved one…..these are all legitimate times when we may have to really sacrifice for a time, just to survive. (And I hope if you’re in a place like this, you reach out for help and accept it gratefully and with no guilt.)

But in our “normal” lives, we need to create space for thought & relaxation, find time for activities that fulfill us, and do something that gives us life.

So take care of your other responsibilities, but make sure you fit the “big” things in, too. Do the things that really matter and make a difference in your life, and be sure that some of them bring you pleasure and joy.

It may feel selfish to spend time on ourselves, but if we do, we will find we are better equipped to help the others in our life.

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afternoon sun shining through winter trees

What I Learned This Winter

afternoon sun shining through winter trees

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman’s What We Learned link-up, where we are invited to come together to share the interesting things we’ve learned, whether serious, silly or somewhere in between. Here’s a list of some of the things I learned this winter.

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1. I have officially joined the Instant Pot craze.

OK. Maybe I’m not quite crazy, but I am growing more and more fond of my Instant Pot almost daily. There seems to be almost a “cult following” of this incredible machine.

Thinking back to what made me take the plunge on this past Black Friday Amazon sale, I have to admit that I don’t love to cook (although I truly love baking!), especially when I feel tired or short on time. And I liked the idea that I might be able to pull together a last-minute meal even with frozen meat.

Enter my new Instant Pot Duo 8 qt.

There is a learning curve to this machine (and I’m sure there will continue to be much more to learn and explore), but already in the past few months, I’ve grown to love the speed, convenience and variety of uses for my pressure cooker. I have already discovered several new meal ideas to be made all in one pot that will remain family favorites, and hope to share more on my blog as we go along.

making homemade yogurt in my Instant Pot

First try for making homemade yogurt.

 

pasta meal in Instant Pot

“Mystery pasta & meatballs”, made from a variety of leftovers combined (a mystery because I will never be able to repeat it).

2.  Smart people know and remind themselves of how much they do not know.

This interesting article suggests that although it’s clearly helpful to read books and put what you’ve learned into practice, it’s also beneficial just to have many books on your bookshelf. For real?

books I'm reading

I love to purchase good books and have every intention of reading them (in fact, it’s one of my goals for this year), but often by the time all is said and done, I own a lot more than I actually ever finish reading.

The author suggests that having lots of good books keeps our desire to learn aflame and encourages us that we have much to learn and far to grow.

So just maybe this little book fetish of mine is not so frivolous after all.

 

 

small book pile3. I just read how (& why) the Dewey Decimal System came to be.

I have a part-time job I really enjoy as a library assistant. As such, I’d still never given a lot of thought to the Dewey Decimal System, and why most libraries choose to arrange books in this way.

One day at work, my supervisor came out with a statement that numbers were used because they are more intuitive/easier to remember than letters.

That thought intrigued me, and though I cannot find the research to substantiate that exact idea, it did lead me to read the interesting story of Melvil Dewey and how he came to design the Dewey Decimal System. The author writes,

“What’s obvious to you, the jaded library patron, wasn’t so obvious in the era before Melvil Dewey. Once a creative genius comes up with an innovation, a century later everyone thinks it’s obvious. If you think it’s so easy, you come up with a system for classifying all knowledge that ever was and ever will be.”

I’m just glad Dewey did this work, and didn’t leave the arranging of much of the world’s books to me.

 

4. There are many interesting and unknown facts about my most favorite holiday (Christmas).

I’ve always loved Christmas, and have always made it’s celebration a highlight of our year. Since I’ve been celebrating for over 50 years now, I’d like to consider myself an expert on the holiday and it’s traditions.

But in reading these “18 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Holidays”, I’ve discovered that there are still many facts about the origin of common Christmas traditions that I did not know. While I’m certainly not surprised that “Americans ship an unbelievable amount of gifts” (I’m quite sure over half of them arrive on our online-ordering-loving doorstep), I was surprised and intrigued to learn that in Canada, “Santa has his own zip code”, “Xmas doesn’t remove Christ from Christmas” (the letter “X” comes from the Greek alphabet and relates to Christ), “Mistletoe was believed to be an aphrodisiac”, and that “Rudolph was almost named Reginald”.

 

5. The latest road conditions can be obtained by calling 511.

We all know to call 911 in an emergency, and most of us have called 411 when we needed directory assistance (although perhaps our “more modern” friends have only relied on the internet for most information?), but until now, I had never heard that there is indeed a 511 call as well. This is the number for America’s Traveler Information. By calling this number, drivers can receive “up-to-the-minute travel and traffic information”.

Good to know.

 

6. A male ballerina is called a ballerino.

I never realized that the word to describe a male ballet dancer is “ballerino”, although after we went to our first performance of The Nutcracker, my friend & I (and especially our husbands who attended with us), will forever have pictures of “men in tights” etched in our minds.

Also interesting to note, is that these titles actually refer to more specific ranks of dancers and that French and Italian have their own names for male and female ballet dancers as well.

 

hot drinks and snowpeople

7. I want to celebrate Christmastide.

I love Christmas!

This Christmas season, I learned something new & wonderful in one of my devotional readings. In Loving My Actual Christmas: An Advent Devotional by Alexandra Kuykendall, the author explains:

“Did you know that the church calendar has an extended Christmas season built into it? We call this stretch of days Christmastide. This period begins on Christmas morning and goes for twelve days, ending on January 6 with Epiphany and the arrival of the magi to the Baby Jesus.”

In fact, I can really relate to how the author feels about this special celebration, although I too have never officially participated in Christmastide. But my family has always found a way to stretch out the Christmas celebration and make this time of year last a little longer. What better way than to celebrate for twelve days after?

If you wish to know more about Christmastide, here’s some more great information that will help to explain more details.

 

Christmas tree and cat

 

8. It’s more environmentally responsible to get a live Christmas tree than use an artificial one.

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that, which you can read here. I, for one, am glad to finally hear some good information in defense of one of my favorite holiday traditions.

And here’s a bit more Christmas tree trivia: after doing a bit more research, I also found out that the first artificial trees were made by a toilet brush company out of their brush bristles.

I may never look at an artificial tree the same again! 😉

 

9. Cooking in a pressure cooker is actually a more healthy way to cook. 🙂

In reference to my point #1, I am happy to have learned that pressure cooking is indeed healthy. I could try to explain the details and convince you in my own words, but I think I’ll suggest you read this very thorough article instead:

According to studies, pressure cooking retains more nutrients than any other type of cooking, it makes grains and legumes easier to digest, increases the digestibility of protein, and can be a good choice for a quick, healthy meal, instead of resorting to packaged, processed foods or take-out.

Just one more reason to love my IP! (That’s short for “Instant Pot”, which you would know if you can relate to point #1)

 

10. Gerber hired their first Gerber Baby with Downs syndrome.

Most of us have grown up recognizing the company’s trademark Gerber Baby.

Since 2010, the Gerber company has held a contest and chosen a special baby to be their “Spokesbaby”. For 2018, baby Lucas Warren has been chosen, and is the first baby picked with Downs syndrome. He captured the hearts of the Gerber team, and there are hopes that this choice will encourage positive change for those with disabilities.

I’m quite sure that if you watch this video, you’ll fall in love with him, too. ♥

 

11. L L Bean is changing (down-grading?) their return policy.

After many, many years of boasting one of the very best return policies out there, L L Bean has decided to change their return policy.  This decision seems to be mainly based on the fact that a small percentage of customers have somewhat taken advantage of their excellent policy. The company suggests that this change won’t affect most of their loyal customers, and I’m not sure exactly how it will affect my future relationship with them, but I guess time will tell.

 

12. I just learned about the benefits of weighted blankets.

I had never even heard of a weighted blanket until very recently.

Hearing that they may help relieve various symptoms affecting sleep, such as stress & anxiety, ADD/ADHD, sleep disorders, PTSD and even autism, makes me curious to try one. They are said to trigger the release of serotonin and melatonin, chemicals which reduce stress and improve sleep.

Sounds like a fairly risk-free idea to help improve one’s sleep!

 

 

 

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir Canadian Ice Dancing Olympic Champions

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir – Canadian Olympic Ice Dance Champions

 

13. The 2018 Winter Olympics gave me my first glimpse of K-pop music.

K-pop stands for “Korean Pop Music”, and my first introduction to this modern form of music was watching the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics this February. It’s an interesting combination of various musical styles and genres and utilizes audiovisual effects. I found it quite different and entertaining.

 

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Thanks for reading my list of What I’ve Learned this winter. If you made it to the end of the post, I hope you enjoyed reading and maybe learned something new, too.

 

 

 

Late afternoon sunset over parking lot

When We Want to Ask Why

This post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where this week’s word prompt is why.

 

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Late afternoon sunset over parking lot

 

In this week’s devotional reading, author & speaker Jennie Allen is speaking to me about suffering. It is a deep and painful topic, but something with which we all must come to terms.

She says,

“I am a big believer in Christian counseling, and that may be an important step in your healing, but no study or counselor can do what Jesus can do. He suffered and wants to walk with you through your suffering as the open wounds heal into scars, leaving a memory and a mark but losing their sting.”

That last sentence reminds me so much of the outcome of my younger sister’s suffering as her first husband went through four years of fighting with Hodgkin’s disease. He had good seasons and bad and even underwent a bone marrow transplant, but in the end, God chose to take him home at a very young age.

Not too many years after that, on one particularly significant date in their relationship, I asked her if the memory was still painful. I’ll never forget my sister’s answer to me at that time. She told me that with the passing of time and the healing she had worked through, it was as if the experience was tucked into a folder, which she could pull out when needed, but it no longer caused her daily hurt. She could use her experience as a tool to help others, but it no longer had to live in her heart.

I also think way back to when my grandfather passed away early on the morning we were supposed to leave for our family vacation. As I awoke as an 11-year old with the anticipation of leaving on our trip, I immediately sensed that something was wrong. My parents explained that Grandpa had suffered another heart attack and had gone on to be with the Lord.

Of course I was sad and would work through my own grief as I watched the pain of my grandmother and mother, but in that childish moment, the first question I tentatively asked my parents was if that meant we weren’t going on our vacation. I knew the answer, but my heart still felt disappointed in the moment.

I don’t even remember exactly how my parents answered (except that we would go later on), but I clearly remember that even though my mom had just lost her father, she understood my question and allowed me to first grieve the loss of a vacation before I processed the greater loss of our loved one.

These experiences are two of many times of suffering we have known, but they teach me something about pain, suffering and loss.

I think it’s OK to ask God the question, “Why?”, as he understands our frail human emotions. It’s only natural to ponder the reasons for hard experiences, and we’d be lying if we pretended everything was just fine. After all, the Bible speaks of many people of faith who asked God these hard questions.

But in the end, it’s a matter of the heart.

Do I trust God enough to believe, even in my questioning, that he loves me and is faithful?

I have a choice when it comes to my times of pain and suffering.

I can choose to dwell in the hurt and questions, or I can allow myself to grow, stretch and heal, until one day the experience is there only as a testament to his faithfulness and a reference to help others.

Jennie Allen also states,

“Out of our pain we could heal our world. Fires are lit in our lives through our suffering and they can burn to shine light or cause destruction; we get to decide which purpose they will serve.”

So go ahead and ask the hard question, “Why?”. I’m sure that God’s shoulders are big enough to handle it.

Then make a choice to allow your why to become a part of the greater purpose that God has for your life.

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Sunny winter sky over buildings

Being Intentional with our Intentions

Sunny winter sky over buildings

 

Today’s post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, and the word prompt for this week is intentional.

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Can I let you in on a secret?

Being more intentional has been on my thoughts and mind for some time now. It’s an area where I feel like I need a great deal of improvement in my life, although in some areas I am very disciplined. When I was naming my blog, I originally wanted to use the words simple or simply and intentional. They were both thoughts that I believed to be important areas for myself and other women (or men) to implement in our daily lives to live successfully (flourishing).

On my childhood report cards, I generally had really good grades often accompanied by the negative (constructive) comment that I needed to work on being self-motivated. As an adult, I’ve still had trouble with time management. I seem to be able to be quite disciplined in some areas, but lacking greatly in others.

And so I want to be more intentional with my intentions. 

You’ve heard it said that as individuals we generally judge ourselves by our intentions (what we mean to do) and others by their actions (what they actually do). Apparently this idea was originally quoted from Stephen M.R. Covey,  He is well known for his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, so his wisdom in this area is not surprising.

So just how can we accomplish more of what we desire, and better yet, what God desires of our lives?

That is something that in middle age I feel like I’m just starting to really learn. I’ve been actively taking some steps to make better use of my precious time. So at least I know where to start.

I know that my goals or intentions, if you will, will only come to fruition if I take practical, measurable steps. It will require some planning and ideally a good deal of praying, but in the end I just need to move forward with discipline, one baby step at a time.

Being intentional requires planning and action.

The first definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word intentional reads,

“done by intention or design”.

Won’t you join me in designing a more intentional life?

My good intentions can only come to be when I learn the discipline of being intentional.

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Herbs in the Snow

A Year to Simplify

Today I’m writing again to join some friends over at the Five Minute Friday link-up. Things have been sparse for me with blog posts these past couple of months, first with my husband’s surgery, then the full-on rush of the wonderful holiday season, complicated with a bit of sickness. But I’m dying to write and today’s word prompt simplify has special meaning for me this year.

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Herbs in the Snow

As the old year quickly came to a close and a new year dawned before me, I started to think about a word to be my focus for this year. This is a habit I did not adhere to the first time I heard about it, but it has grown on me and become my new norm.

It’s hard for me, as a naturally logic and facts-based person, to feel like I can hear God speaking to me. Most often I plan, trust and pray and then do what seems like the right thing. It often feels as if I am making my own practical decisions, but I know that in many ways God is always directing my steps.

I’m also learning not to ignore those fleeting thoughts that seem like I just “made them up” or that seem to have come at random, and realize that often they are indeed from my heavenly Father. If we’ve given our lives to God and are attempting to follow him, I believe that he will direct even our passing thoughts. He will also use our circumstances to help direct our decisions.

So as I began to mull over thoughts of rest and the phrase, “let it go” came to mind, I wondered if maybe I had hit on something.

Then in an (In)Courage post a link was given to a short quiz at Dayspring to help determine our word of the year. It’s kind of interesting that the post spoke of just needing “simple” sometimes, and after completing 7 quick questions, the word simplicity was chosen for me. I knew that it seemed awfully simple, and almost seemed too easy, but the more I thought about it, that is precisely the point.

You see, I naturally tend to over-complicate things. It seems to be a by-product of the cautious, detailed, often perfectionist part of my personality. I’ve been attempting to simplify in many areas of life over the past few years, so much so that I named my blog Simply Flourishing Home.

So I’ve decided that SIMPLIFY will definitely be my word for 2018.

What could I intentionally simplify in order to live a more flourishing life of joy, peace and productivity?

I can simplify tasks and projects instead of putting them off due to overwhelm.

Cleaning and organizing my home in a more simple, if imperfect way would still bless my family and those who enter.

When I feel hurt or wronged by others, sometimes I can simply choose to forgive and let the offence and pain go freely.

If I make simple meals of real foods, we will eat meals that are healthy and less stressful.

When I have a decision to make, I can consider my options, do a little research if necessary, ask advice where appropriate, and then simply ask God to show me the best choice, without laboring unnecessarily.

My exercise will remain more consistent and enjoyable as I continue to use a simple plan, rather than feel a need to push myself so hard that I am filled with dread.

I hope to more easily let go of things to declutter my home and make it a place of peace and simplicity.

I can employ my right to say a simple “no” more easily, so that my “yeses” will be more filled with joy and conviction.

This Christmas, I decided to embrace simplicity and do a lot less, which felt less stressful and more joyful.

 

When it comes down to it, most of the time doing something simply is better and more satisfying than trying to do things perfectly, then either failing or not getting around to them at all.

So this year with God’s help, I will endeavor to simplify my life.

And in return, I believe I will simply be more joyful, less stressed, and more able to do the things that are important to me. I may simply become more of who God made me to be.

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various miniature winter trees

When Christmas Feels Different

I am happy to link this post with many others at Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is, different.

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various miniature winter trees

This Christmas feels a little different.

It’s been an interesting year. I started the year sensing the word, “cherish”. But as the year progressed, it felt less like a year to cherish and more of just getting through.

In the spring, I accidentally cut my finger while slicing watermelon and severed the tendon, which resulted in surgery and a surprisingly long recovery time. Loss of the use of my finger set me back in many household responsibilities, but in the end, I am mostly healed (still needing to do a bit more strengthening as of yet!).

In October, after feeling signs of something being not quite right in his chest, my husband was scheduled to have stints put it to open blocked arteries, but was kept in for bypass surgery instead. Thankfully, things went extremely well, and he is well on the road to recovery.

While I am so thankful that things didn’t turn out worse (believe me, it could have been much worse!), I also have had to grieve the loss of time and order in my home and life that just hasn’t been the same. I have felt overwhelmed and behind in so many areas for most of the year, although we have survived quite well.

So I come at this Christmas from a slightly different perspective.

I love all things Christmas, so giving up some of my long-held, much-loved traditions to care for myself, my home and my family has been a sacrifice. It doesn’t feel quite the same.

But of course, it has been feeling different all along, as time and age and memories rush past in what seems like ever-increasing speed.

For those of us who cherished the childish sensations of the holidays, it’s a bit difficult to grow up, be responsible, and enjoy the holiday without all of the same feelings.

And this Christmas has come all too fast for my liking (although a touch of snow on the ground doesn’t hurt), but has it really?

I’ve read and heard it said that if the meaning of Christmas doesn’t affect us all year long, then it isn’t the real thing. I’ve heard of more than one friend who actually decided to leave up their nativity sets all year to be mindful of this fact.

I will probably always love the sights, sounds, emotions, traditions and memories of this special time of year. As long as we keep these good things in perspective, I’m sure God doesn’t mind our celebrating his birthday too much.

But let us remember that Christmas really doesn’t come just once a year. Rather, it comes and is here with us always in the form of God’s only Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit whom he left to stay with us.

His presence is ever real, and if I can really begin to understand this timeless truth, then Christmas really isn’t that different this year after all. Some things never change.

I have and will celebrate the important things in life: my faith and God’s special gift to the world, my family and loved ones (whether near or far), our health and strength, a warm, happy home and so much to be thankful for, the countless blessings that grace my life each day even when they go unnoticed, the festivities and fun that the holidays bring, and yes, even the hard stuff that causes us to stretch and grow.

So eat a cookie, listen to some holiday tunes, enjoy those you find around you, sit in the stillness, ponder the gift, enjoy the candles and Christmas lights, but most of all, be thankful.

This Christmas may be different, but the gift is the same.

And if we choose to embrace Christmas in whatever form it appears, perhaps we will look a little different, too.

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