May sky with day moon

I’ve Got a Question

May sky with day moon

This post has been created for the Five-Minute Friday link-up, where the prompt for this week is question.

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Excuse me; I have a question.

Are you one who asks a lot of questions? I most definitely am.

It’s how I learn and process information. The more I understand something, the better I will remember it. It’s really helpful to me, but sometimes people don’t understand. Asking many questions can cause some to feel that you’re incompetent or that you don’t trust them, but I don’t think that’s farther from the truth.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I remember a particular time when after my asking a lot of questions in class some of my classmates taunted me with, “You ask too many questions.” Amazing how some things stick with us for decades.

There most definitely is a place for refusing to doubt, but I’m not entirely sure there’s really such a thing as “blind faith”. How else will our beliefs become truly our own if we haven’t worked through our doubts, questions and even some possible disagreements? How can we trust or follow something we truly haven’t worked to understand?

I am absolutely convinced that my husband is faithful to me, but that conviction is based upon first getting to know each other very well, our public commitment we made before God and many people when we married, and years of faithfulness to each other. I trust my belief in God in the same way. I’m not a Christian just because my parents are or because I was raised that way, but I’ve lived a lifetime of learning truths about God and his word and seeing it play out in countless lives, including my own.

So our “blind faith” is solidly built on facts and the truth of our own experience.

Rather than worry when our own children or someone we know questions God’s goodness or the truth of the Bible, we can be sure that they are at least thinking on their own. They must do the hard work of figuring out why it makes sense to believe. Real faith is not something we just accept or take for granted. Rather, a faith that’s survived questions, doubts and confusion is a firm foundation that will not be shaken.

So next time you have a question, go ahead and ask. Encourage others to do the same.

You will have more understanding and your convictions will become your own.

God can handle our doubts and our questions. Many great men and women of faith have asked their share of hard questions, and their stories live on over the ages to help and encourage people like us.

So please excuse me. I have a question.

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purple creeping phlox in my garden

What I Learned This Spring

purple creeping phlox in my garden

Another quarter has already passed, which surprisingly means another season has also almost flown by as well. It’s time to join my favorite link-up and share What I Learned This Spring. This is a collection of some of the interesting, helpful, and sometimes meaningful things I’ve learned in this season. I hope you enjoy learning a little, too.

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1.Can you really eat pineapple this way? –

Apparently, there is a really neat and easy way to eat a pineapple that went viral on the internet. This article describes the method shared by an actor from a well-known television show, and includes several videos of others’ attempts at using this same method. According to the results, it may not be as simple as it looks, although some people seemed to get it to work.

Truthfully, I haven’t tried this yet myself yet. I don’t have high hopes, but will certainly put fresh pineapple on my next grocery list.

2. I learned how to best store (dried) bay leaves, and that they do indeed have an aroma. –

I finally got to the end of a very old supply of bay leaves. I don’t even remember where or when I got them, but there’s a good chance they had become flavorless, since they had no scent. For this reason, I had developed the habit of using at least twice as many as my recipes called for. So I wasn’t very disappointed when I got to the end of the bottle and had to begin my search on Amazon for some new leaves.

After perusing many options, I settled on a one-pound package of bay leaves with good reviews and pressed the button to complete my purchase.

When I received and opened the very large bag, I was struck by two things. One, bay leaves actually have a smell and they are wonderfully fragrant (no more needing to double or triple up in recipes!), and two, bay leaves are very lightweight (one pound is a LOT of leaves, and looked like a small pillow!).

This led me to two next-steps: finding out how best to store my new culinary treasure, and attempting to share bay leaves with as many friends as possible. I discovered that the best way to store bay leaves is not in your spice cabinet, but rather in the freezer.

I guess my friends and I will be all set for awhile now.

3.There may be a better way to wash your produce. –

We’ve known the importance of washing our produce for awhile now, but according to recent studies, baking soda may be the best way to remove more pesticides from our fruit. A Consumer Reports article states that it is important to scrub the skins of produce and possibly even better to soak it in a solution of one teaspoon baking soda in two cups of water for at least two minutes. The longer the soak, the more pesticides are removed.

I also have a little paper towel trick I use to keep washed lettuce fresh longer.

I like to wash many of my vegetables by first spritzing with my DIY water-vinegar cleaning spray, then scrubbing with a veggie brush and rinsing well. I also try to check produce labels for where they are grown, as certain produce is known to be safer (less pesticides) from some countries than others.

In the end, I believe each of us needs to do our “due diligence” in research and then make decisions about what types of fruits and veggies to buy for our families and be at peace with that.

4. Doing without makes you appreciate something new all the more. –

I recently got new silverware.

My old silverware, which was supposed to be “stainless” steel, started to develop a nasty, blackish tarnish too soon after we purchased it several years ago. We used it as it was, thought about diligently polishing it for hours to try to remove the dark stains, but finally just gave up recently and decided we had put up with it long enough and would replace it.

I shopped around a bit, but didn’t take long to choose a few boxes of some quality pieces at one of my favorite warehouse stores.

I brought them home, washed them and began to replace my old silverware with the new and was quite pleased. For days (or perhaps even a couple of weeks), I realized how ridiculously happy I felt looking at and using our heavy, new, shiny forks, knives, and spoons. I actually said I felt like royalty, all because of a silly thing like brand new silverware.

The moral of the story, which I’ve learned over the years in many instances of either hardship or simply just putting up with something inferior, is that when you do without, it teaches you to really appreciate getting something new. It’s valuable to use what you have and choose gratitude in all circumstances, but also enjoyable to be able to splurge and appreciate a new purchase or gift that you’ve waited for patiently and with anticipation.

5.We’re learning about identifying ducks. –

While on a recent picnic, my husband and I were enjoying a flock of mallard ducks hanging out on a small river. We noticed one particular duck that looked similar, but not quite the same as the other mallards. He looked very dark, maybe all black, contrasted with the telltale dark green head of a common male mallard duck.

I’m still not sure, but I think he may have been an American Black Duck. Interestingly, I didn’t realize that the familiar mallard didn’t always breed in our area (Northeastern United States), but have grown to outnumber the native Black Ducks and thrive, while the Black Duck population is declining.

6.Organizing and decluttering really does save time. –

If there’s one thing that causes me more stress and discontent, it’s clutter and disorganization.

One would think that because I feel so strongly about this, and my personality craves order, that I would have the most orderly, clutter-free home around. But unfortunately, like every personality trait, there is a dark side that comes with each positive quality. I am easily overwhelmed and get bogged down in the details, often resulting in more clutter and less organization overall. I am gradually getting rid of stuff and organizing what’s left, and finding more and more how true it is that you can’t organize clutter.

According to this helpful article (the last frame), “It’s continuous maintenance. For every hour we spend organizing we save 3-4 hours”. Boy, do I believe it! The best advice seems to be to keep at it consistently, even just a few minutes at a time, to keep clutter at bay and continue to move forward with organization.

As I learn and try some of the popular Kon Mari method of tidying, I’m starting to really like the file folding method. Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog has a great post detailing her take on this practical method.

7. I really like cold-brewed iced coffee the best!

For several years I’ve been tasting and making cold-brewed iced coffee. I first stumbled upon this method of brewing when I was looking for ways to enjoy coffee with less acid, due to some health concerns. I discovered that I also prefer the smooth taste of this type of brew.

Honestly, since switching our coffee maker to a nice system that allows one to make iced coffee immediately about a year ago, I’ve gotten away from making cold brew. Although we love this convenient feature on our coffee maker, I had forgotten just how good cold-brewed coffee tastes.

So I’m getting back to keeping some delicious, lower acid, cold-brewed iced coffee on hand this summer. Some things are really worth a little extra effort!

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Thanks for joining me again in reflecting on some of the things I’ve learned this spring. What are you learning lately? Do you take time to record and/or reflect on a season?

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

Life is an Opportunity

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

I’m (finally) joining in again to catch this week’s Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word for this week was opportunity.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately.

Through my husband’s heart bypass surgery experience about a year and a half ago, the death of both of his sisters in the same twelve-month period shortly after that, the passing of my last grandmother at 101 years of age, to the recent news that my mother has cancer again, it makes me realize how fleeting life is. We don’t know whether we have five years, or forty-five or one hundred and five.

As hard as these experiences were and are, I know some of them turned out much better than we had hoped, and for that we are thankful. God met us and provided for us in our times of suffering and need, for which we are also grateful. And I’m confident that even through the difficult times, he is faithfully with us and will help us to grow stronger.

When faced with sickness, hardship and even death, it makes me realize once again the preciousness of life.

I see that each moment is a gift.

I recognize that things that seem ordinary are special.

I desire to complain less and praise and encourage more.

I’m learning that wherever I am, I want to be all there.

So wherever we find ourselves, whatever season we are journeying through, despite the hardships and joys and monotony, let’s grasp each moment as it comes and make the best of it.

Let’s enjoy each moment for what it is, rather than what we think it should be.

Let’s learn to just be present,

be real,

be content,

and love the days we’ve been given.

Let’s share each gift we’ve been given, make the most of each circumstance that comes our way, and savor each moment.

Because life truly is an opportunity.

Blue sky with clouds and snowy branches

What I Learned This Winter

Blue sky with clouds and snowy branches

It’s one of my favorite times again, where I join Emily P. Freeman’s link-up about what we learned this past season. What a wonderful habit of recording and reflecting on things I’ve learned, both silly and serious and somewhere in between.

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10 Things I Learned This Winter:

1. The “January blues” is a real thing. – I often struggle with the end of the holidays and the transition into the new year, but I guess there’s an official condition known as the “January blues”. It’s similar to, but not the same as Seasonal Affective Disorder. That means that many people struggle with this same thing. It’s OK to recognize if you also have a difficult time with this post-holiday time of year. That is how we start to find a way to make things better

2. I just had to know how to open a paper potato bag.– Have you ever wondered how to open those paper bags that are closed with a row of string stitched across the top? In the summer and fall I spend one day a week working at a farm stand at a local farm. One of the tricky little things I’ve run across is this type of closure on a huge fifty pound bag of potatoes. No one seems to know how to unravel the string, and it’s certainly not obvious.

So finally I decided one day this winter that there must be a way to open this type of sewn paper sack without going crazy or getting completely frustrated. I found several videos and written explanations online, but this one is one of the nicest and easiest to follow.

The solution seems simple enough, but the real test will be the next time I’m confronted by one of those bags. You’re welcome.

3. This February was the first time I had ever heard of “Galentine’s” Day. – This imaginary holiday has apparently been around for almost ten years, but I had never heard of it. If you’re out of the loop just like me, Galentine’s Day is a special day to celebrate our female friendships on February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day. So if you’d like an excuse to shower your friends with appreciation and affection, by all means go for it. But if you are tired of trying to keep up with yet another “pretend” holiday, feel free to skip it, too.

Heart made of Lindor truffles.

4. I learned how to clear a drain naturally. – I’ve heard it said that you can clean almost anything with baking soda and/or vinegar. Well, recently I discovered that it just may be true.

We have a home with older pipes which seem to get clogged regularly. Over the years, we’ve had to spend money and dump too many gallons of toxic drain openers down our bathroom sinks, just to keep things running smoothly. One sink in particular was giving us a lot of trouble lately, so after several chemical treatments without luck, I decided to find out if there were any natural solutions.

One of the suggestions is to pour baking soda and then vinegar into the drain, followed by boiling water. (You can read about this idea here.) I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to see the water fizz and bubble and at least look like it was doing something. After a couple of tries, my husband came home and plunged the sink. This sink that had standing water in it for weeks was suddenly clear. I’d like to think it’s because of my natural remedy, but it could have been the plunging, or both. Only time will tell.

5. It’s possible that late people are more successful and live longer. – At least that’s what I read in an article in Southern Living. They suggest that those who are usually late are living more in the moment or are optimistically assuming that they can get more done in a certain time. I hate to disagree with the scientific evidence presented, but for me being late hasn’t seemed to be that beneficial. I’ve struggled with lateness over the years and worked hard to make improvements. The only thing I’ve felt in those times when I fall back into lateness is more stress and possibly embarrassment, as well as some degree of guilt or concern for those I’m causing to wait. I think I’ll take my chances and find success and fulfillment in other ways.

6. Pretzels were first brought to North America by the Pennsylvania Dutch. – While the earliest pretzels were made in Germany, years later in the 1700’s the Pennsylvania Dutch brought them to America. Pennsylvania is still first in production and consumption of pretzels in North America.

As a child, I had a best friend who came from Pennsylvania, and after several years in Canada living as my neighbor, their family moved back to that state. In subsequent years, my parents would drive me to Pennsylvania to spend a few days with my friend, while they enjoyed some vacation time in a nearby motel. I still remember visiting a local pretzel factory and have always thought that Pennsylvania makes some of the best pretzels. I think I was right.

7. I learned how simple it is to take a screen shot on my Android phone. – On my new phone, all I have to do is hold down the volume down and power buttons at the same time and the photo is saved to my gallery. Who knew? (Maybe you did, but it was news to me.)

8. I wasn’t using enough salt in my pasta cooking water. – According to Cooks Country magazine, their suggested ratio is 4 quarts of water to 1 tablespoon salt. And for all my years of cooking I’ve only added a sprinkle or at most maybe a teaspoon. Here’s to better pasta!

9.”I can care without carrying.” – In one of my recent quiet times, I was struck with how difficult it is as caring people to feel the burden of the needs and problems of those around us. As parents, we often feel the difficulties and fears of our children almost as strongly as they do themselves. Empathy and compassion are useful at times and can help others know they are cared for and not alone, but we cannot live in a state of constantly carrying everyone’s burdens as well as our own.

As I was thinking and praying about this, this phrase came into my mind: “I can care without carrying.” I think this simple statement will help to remind me that there are ways to show care and help someone without picking up and adding their burdens to my own.

10. I need a little “winter” before I can fully enjoy spring. – This has been an interesting winter. While many parts of the country seemed to get doses of winter dumped on them, here in New England it there’s been very little snow. We had some really cold days, but many unseasonably mild days mixed in. What little snow we had either melted away the next day or turned to rain and disappeared.

During one such storm in late January I turned on our Christmas lights, ran out of the house around midnight in my robe and slippers and snapped some pretty snow photos with my colored lights. By the next morning, it had turned to rain.

Christmas lights in fluffy, late January snow.
My Christmas lights in fluffy snowflakes around midnight.
Close-up of Christmas lights in late January snow.
Christmas lights in a pretty, late January snow.

We just had a couple of snow days this past week in March, and we had about fourteen inches of snow which is staying on the ground. As satisfying as it was to get a “real” snowstorm, I am now officially ready for spring.

view from window after snowstorm
The view from our bedroom window.
Our home in the snow.
Our home after the March 2019 snowstorm.

Thanks for joining me for another quarter of what I learned.

What have you been learning lately?

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roof and clouds sky photo

When You Don’t Feel Ready for a New Year

Early each January or often even in the late December days between Christmas and New Year’s I see so many posts, photos, and stories in blogs and in my favorite social media feeds talking about goals and plans for the new year.

And each year I think I feel about the same.

While I commend and sometimes marvel at these goals, the carefully chosen focus words for the year to come, and perfect plans shared for our encouragement, I am seldom there yet.

While I am trying to live my life with more intention and fully embrace making goals and plans to succeed in the new year, I usually find myself feeling sad and behind. I hope to be there with my word for the year and some well-laid plans soon, but right now I’m still stuck between my favorite holiday and a fresh, yet slightly intimidating new start.

My mind tells me I should be thinking about starting a new year and planning to do things differently, leaving the holidays far behind, but I can’t quite get there yet.

For one thing, my family and I love to celebrate clear through New Year’s Day. My family has always made a big deal about Christmas and loved all of our traditions. In my books, the party isn’t over until well after January 1st. The Christmas tree doesn’t come down until just before the scheduled special trash pick up about one week into January.

Most years I am still trying to squeeze in a few more fun holiday moments, while simultaneously feeling pushed headlong into something different and new. I usually experience some melancholy moments as well, especially with the still-too-short days where often the sun isn’t shining.

I have almost always just said “good-bye” to my parents as either they or we embark on our five hundred mile drive home again. If we’re lucky, we’re also parting with my sister and family, but our reality is that most years we have to accept that we had to celebrate “together” from afar (our parents usually deliver our gifts back and forth), and that we won’t see each other until sometime in the summer.

It’s hard to love a holiday and my family so much and live too far away and have to wait another whole year.

The other thing holding me back is this. I know that there were many good experiences and some growth and accomplishments in 2018, but it’s easier to remember the apparent failures; the long list of things I didn’t finish or what I don’t feel I did well. Life seldom turns out the way I had planned and I am that imperfect human, after all.

So I’m not ready to spoil my last few precious moments or force my mind to turn a corner just yet. I’m still stuck somewhere in between, while by all appearances, the rest of the world has moved on to a productive and spectacular new year.

I am contemplating a focus word for the year and what I may like to do differently. But I don’t yet have the energy to try to figure out intricate plans, make big, important commitments and force myself into a well-planned new year just yet.

And I cannot think that I am the only one.

I am here to tell us that it’s OK.

Let’s allow ourselves some grace, slow down life’s tempo, and ease into 2019 gently.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out, nor do I have studies to show you that this is the best way to plan your life or your year, but I am sure that we’ll be all right if we don’t have it all figured out by January 1 (or even January 15th).

As I do slowly look towards 2019, here are some ideas that may help all of us who are not feeling quite ready for a new year:

1.Celebrate a little more if you need to.

I know there are some folks who are ready to pull down the decorations, throw out the turkey, take down their tree, set new goals, and start a diet or cleanse on the day after Christmas, but that is not happening at our house. If you are one like me who likes to celebrate into the new year and then some, go for it! It will be over 350 days until the Christmas season rolls around again, so what’s the rush to get it over with?

I would rather celebrate “the real 12 days of Christmas”, beginning with the advent season and continuing through Epiphany. That feels about right to me.

And when we finally get that first “real” snow (not counting the light and brief snowfall we had sometime in October), I plan to to turn on my outdoor Christmas lights and celebrate the sparkle against snowflakes.

2. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are actually feeling.

One thing I am getting better at, especially as I get older, is to allow myself to just feel what I’m feeling. I’m not suggesting that I should necessarily stay there (especially if it’s not so positive), but recognizing what I’m feeling is necessary and healthy. While my personality immediately tries to tell me that I shouldn’t be feeling something, the reality is, I am feeling it.

Denying or ignoring our emotional state is seldom helpful and will likely cause hurt and more pain down the road to ourselves and those around us.

3. Quiet your body, mind and soul.

We all need more quiet.

Especially in our culture which seems to thrive on and often glorify productivity and busyness, we need to be intentional about rest.

We need to choose to stop, opt for quiet, and fight for peace for ourselves and our families.

Sometimes calming or inspirational music can help, but there are also times where we just need the rarity of absolute silence. If you are a person of faith, be sure to pray, but also allow times of stillness. We need this space to listen to what God might be saying to us and to pay attention to the truth-telling rhythms of our hearts.

The words of blogger and author Emily P. Freeman often calm, encourage and inspire me. Both her written and spoken words have been a balm to my soul. I found her recent podcast, A Blessing for the New Year , so helpful and comforting that I listened to it every single day for the first week of January. Perhaps it will encourage you as well.

4. Start with gratitude.

Although we need to recognize and allow ourselves our feelings, don’t let yourself stay in a negative frame of mind. I may naturally tend towards the glass being half empty, but I cannot allow myself to live in that mentality.

I need to constantly find gratefulness, for there are blessings all around us, if only we will choose to see. I’m sure most of us have heard and read about how healthy it is to choose to be thankful. Keeping a gratitude journal, singing songs of praise or thanks, speaking positive and grateful words, learning to focus on the good, and working at changing negative thinking are all ways we can become more joyful and positive.

5. Do something you enjoy to celebrate the new year and to help you transition.

I’m not just talking about your New Year’s Eve celebrations, although that could be a good place to start. A quiet, cozy night at home with family or a fun night out with friends may help to lift your mood.

But don’t stop just because the winter day doesn’t have a special holiday name. Create some fun memories around the change of the new year such as rearranging your home and decor after the decorations are put away or getting a pretty new journal or planner. Go out on a date or plan a girl’s night out. Scour some after-Christmas sales or begin decluttering a section of your home.

6. Enlist the help and accountability you need and begin to make a plan.

At some point, it is definitely time to move forward.

You don’t have to do it according to everyone else’s schedule, but it’s healthy and encouraging to be intentional about how we live and spend our time. It’s something that is a work in progress for me, yet I know it’s important and leads to a more fulfilling life.

I’m not naturally highly motivated, although I do like organization and am stubborn enough to hold myself accountable for many actions and habits I feel are important. But I often struggle to use my time well or do the hard things. So I need a little help.

There are countless blog posts, podcasts, books and articles that offer good advice and helpful tips to help us to step boldly into the new year. We can learn how to make realistic goals with good action steps, live more intentionally, declutter and organize. create a personal exercise program and cultivate a more healthy, balanced life.

A couple of my favorite folks who blog and share wonderful help for realistic productivity are Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom and Beth Anne Schwamberger of Brilliant Business Moms. One of my favorite blogs for home organizing tips and encouragement is Abby Organizes. I’ve also enjoyed learning about planning and organizing from Laura of I Heart Planners. And my favorite online fitness instructor is Robin Long of The Balanced Life, who teaches Pilates and runs an online subscription program. I’ve been part of the Sisterhood for over two years now, and it’s helped me be consistent with exercise and make other healthy choices with a group of like-minded, encouraging women all over the world.

Yes, sometimes we need to push ourselves and do difficult things in order to grow and improve our lives, so create some accountability. Join an online group or challenge or simply agree with a family member or friend to check in with each other regularly to see how you’re doing.

7. Treat yourself kindly and give yourself lots of grace.

In all of the planning and “doing”, don’t forget to give yourself lots of grace! We were never meant to be perfect and a successful life does not consist of the things we do or get done.

Growth and change can be healthy, but we need to first accept who we are and our unique gifts, as well as our flaws and weaknesses. They are part of what makes us human and are formative in our life journeys. The difficulties we struggle through truly do make us stronger. And our personal growth and success won’t look exactly like that of anyone else.

In this past week alone I’ve been reminded twice already to be gentle with myself and to be content with the imperfect person that I am. Once was in a podcast from one of my favorite podcasters and the second was part of a sermon at church. I believe this is a good place to start as we head into a brand new year.

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Now that it’s already half way through the month, I’m beginning to feel more ready for the new year.

I don’t have all my plans and goals figured out, but I’m preparing to move ahead with joy and hope. I’ve been thinking and praying about what to focus on this year and am starting to want to make changes and plans. I may not be there yet, but I’m moving in the right direction.

I still have decorations to put away this week, lots of Christmas ham to use up in the freezer, and more persistent pine needles to clean off of the floor.

I have changes to make, goals to plan, and dreams to dream for this year.

But I will endeavor to be as kind and gracious to myself as I would be with someone else.

I cannot share the good gifts inside of me with the world unless I am taking care of myself first.

So as we tentatively step into a new year, may 2019 be a year of intentional growth and change. But may it always be tempered with lots of grace, healthy rest, and joy and contentment for all of us. Maybe we’ll even find a little excitement in this new year.

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God With Us

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where the word of the week is with.

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“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:23 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

In that simple phrase, “God with us”, can be found the entire message of not only Christmas, but the whole Bible.

The Christmas story is unique in that the God of the universe chose to take on frail human flesh to live a life of love to reach us.

He did not sit on a throne of judgement, counting all of our short-comings against us; he doesn’t require us to reach a certain standard before he will accept or love us.

He came to us as a helpless infant, grew up in our skin, and showed us the way to live to find true life.

He made himself the solution to our need.

He came to us.

God with us.

Whatever you are facing this Christmas, take time to be still and reflect on what Christmas means to you.

Have peace knowing that someone cares for you enough that he came to you. You can trust him with your hopes, fears, joy and pain.

Perhaps the story is best told by a simple and familiar young voice:

 

 

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

Love has come. Peace is here.

God with us. 

Merry Christmas.

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pumpkin, mums, fall, porch

What I Learned this Fall

pumpkin, mums, fall, porch   This post is written for the quarterly link-up with Emily P. Freeman, and contains some of the various things I’ve learned this fall. Enjoy!  

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1. I was surprised to discover how much I like The Greatest Showman!

Since I work at the library, I tend to see what books and movies are popular and well-liked. I don’t consider myself to be a musical-loving person, but after seeing and hearing folks rave about The Greatest Showman, I knew I should at least give it a try. I surprised myself when I almost instantly fell in love with the show. It is flashy and bright, but is refreshingly innocent, and is laced with a beautiful story based in part on the life of P. T. Barnum. If you like music, the music in The Greatest Showman is phenomenal! I found it interesting that the main star of the show is in fact the same actor who I had seen as Wolverine in the past. On first glance, the parts appear so different, but in the end, perhaps not as much as it seems. Both characters have the shared trait of really caring for others and sacrificing on their behalf. You can read about some of the different characters in the show here, and about the actors who played them.    

2. After 20-30 years, I finally replaced my wallet with a crossbody clutch, and am loving it.

You read that right. My durable hunter green leather wallet is at least 20 years old, and possibly as old as 30. I can’t remember whether I got it just before I was married (which would bring the date to close to 30 years), or shortly thereafter. Either way, although the outside was surprisingly intact (proving my theory that it’s definitely worth the money for real leather!), the inside was embarrassingly worn. In my quest for a new wallet, it came to my attention that my current leather purse (I’m a one-purse kind of gal, so it’s my black L. L. Bean handbag until that ones wears out) is kind of heavy. Often when I shop, I find the weight hurting my shoulders. So I started looking into those clutch style wallets, and finally decided that one with a long strap would indeed be the most practical. I found my final choice on Amazon, and have been so thrilled to carry far less with me when I shop. I figured out that I really only need my phone, my money and some cards with me, and can even squeeze in a comb, chapstick and a couple other tiny items, about ninety percent of the time. Many of the extras can live in my car.    

3. Canada’s Wonderland SkyRider stand-up coaster was retired in 2014.

In the last post of What I Learned, I mentioned how I think I am giving up roller coasters. One of the last and most exciting/scary ones I rode was Canada’s Wonderland’s stand-up coaster, Skyrider. As I was enjoying perusing the various coasters I used to ride along with viewing some of the new ones, I was a bit sad to learn that Skyrider retired in 2014. Not that I was planning on riding it again, but it signifies the close of another era in my life; one where I was much younger, more adventurous, and more physically resilient. Did you know that you can virtually “ride” most roller-coasters by viewing a video online? Check out these videos of the various coasters at my favorite homeland amusement park, Canada’s Wonderland. Below is another one of my favorites from my teenager days, my first metal coaster that went upside-down, Dragon Fire. Perhaps, like me, it will be just enough of a ride for you.  
     

4.  Studies show that flowers are good for your health.

In my current devotional book by Bonnie Gray, she mentions that studies show flowers to be good for our health. You can read about the scientific health benefits of flowers, and perhaps next time you’re at the market, pick some up for your own benefit.   roses and pink flowers close-up  

5. We may hear spring peepers in autumn.

Apparently, these tiny musicians don’t know or care if it’s the correct season, and can be heard in some parts of the country in the fall.

6. Most Amish farms are not organic and they do use pesticides.

Do you assume that the Amish must farm organically? I mean, they are known for their simple living and non-modern practices, so that may have been my assumption, too. But just because these farmers are Amish, does not mean that their farms are organic. Either way, I still love learning about this devoted and interesting group of people. It’s refreshing to think about living more simply,  making everyday labor fun, and the strong value of community that help to make the Amish famous. I would love to sample some of their delicious home-cooked foods as well!  

7. I recently discovered For King & Country and then learned of their difficult start.

I found a new favorite Christian music group this summer and have enjoyed listening to the music of For King and Country since then. It was interesting and not too surprising to read that their family went through some very difficult times early on, and to learn how this shaped their music. I’ve always known that music can be born out of our emotional and circumstantial experiences, both good and hard, and that it can in turn affect our emotions strongly. I’m so thankful for the gift of music. It can assist us in telling our story, in reflection, in worship, in questioning, and in celebration. Christian musicians    

8. Many Swedes are already using microchips inserted into their skin.

As scary as it sounds, many of our Swedish friends are having a microchip inserted under the skin in their hand, allowing them added convenience for some of their daily activities. This sounds like the space-age stuff we were always warned about as kids, but I guess it is already becoming a reality in this technologically advanced society. I don’t know about you, but although I’m all for convenience and advancement in technology, I plan to keep my keys and credit cards in my handbag for the time being, and out of my skin.    

9. Mums can be damaged in frost or freezing conditions.

Growing up in Ontario and living much of my adult life in Massachusetts, chrysanthemums are a welcome sign and celebration of fall. They tend to be very hearty and can withstand cooler temps, which makes them suitable for climates that experience colder weather for part of the year. But this year when I was choosing my fall flowers from the farm stand where I work, my farmer friend informed me that frost can damage mums and they won’t necessarily survive freezing temperatures. I didn’t really know that, and for the first time, I opted to cover my potted mums with an old sheet when the temperatures started heading towards freezing. Wouldn’t you know that they lasted longer and looked more beautiful? pumpkin and coral mums  

10. “Vocation” and “calling” are nearly the same word.

I really enjoyed reading a series of blog posts about vocation and found it most inspiring.
Our word vocation derives from the Latin vocare, “to call.” Therefore the words calling and vocation are often used interchangeably. Vocational training in modern times has come to refer to technical training required for and leading directly to a trade such as nursing, technology, or culinary fields. Used this way, a vocation is a job or trade requiring a specific set of skills and technical knowledge. In contrast, many believe that a vocation or calling is, as Frederick Buechner is often quoted, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (1) In other words, a vocation is found at the intersection of your passion and abilities and the world’s needs.
No wonder that when we do what we love, it feels akin something deeper than just fun or work. I love how we are created with so many unique desires, dreams, and abilities within us, whether we use them in our paid jobs or in other meaningful areas of our lives. When we use the gifts that God has given us, it makes us feel more alive, and we can best influence those around us for good.

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Well, that sums it up for another round of What I Learned. Why not consider keeping a record of things you are learning? It’s a wonderful way to reflect on a small part of our lives. Please feel free to share something you are learning in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!              
east coast shore with sun setting

Are You Who You Want to Be?

east coast shore with sun setting

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word of the week is who.

*****

I’ve always liked a song by one of my favorite alternative Christian music bands. Some of the lyrics are, “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” 

Sometimes it’s a challenge to love life, with all of it’s ups and downs, the good and the difficult.

And it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up.

 

 

Every time I hear the words of this song, I wonder if I’m living the life I was meant to, even though it looks different in many ways to what I had planned.

Isn’t that how life is?

We dream and plan and make choices.

Then life comes along and things don’t always go the way we want or imagined.

Some of these discrepancies are due to our own actions, yet many are uninvited, whether happy or ill.

But I wish to be a person who embraces the life I’ve been given.

We’ve all heard it said that we can’t change our circumstances, but we can choose our reaction to them. It really is true of much of life’s events.

 

There are some choices that can help me to become the person I want to be.

First, I wish to be content.

Even though my personality often tends towards seeing the glass half empty, I purpose to be grateful and enjoy what I’ve been given. Even if it isn’t what I expected, I have been given much.

That’s why I keep a gratitude journal.

Nothing changes our perspective more than a thankful heart.

Secondly, I desire to live with intention.

I’m good at this in some areas, and sorely lacking in others.

But I want to be sure I’m not wasting the precious time and gifts I’ve been given.

I will continue to endeavor to live the life I was created for, and follow his design for me, wherever that may lead.

It won’t always be easy, but my God has never left me on my own.

 

There is a beautiful balance between accepting and enjoying our lives as they are, with grace, and using our strength, wisdom and love to make a difference to ourselves and to others.

 

I need not settle with where I am at, yet I need not pine away for the past or a future that may not be mine.

So in the end, I am who I want to be, and I ask God to help me to further fulfill the destiny he has planned for me.

One intentional baby step and thought of gratitude at a time.

So what about you? Are you who you want to be?

*****

 

 

 

wheat grass, cat grass, kitties

The Things We Want to Share

wheat grass, cat grass, kitties

Today I’m joining in with the bunch at Five Minute Friday, where the prompt of the day is share.

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Since we were little we learned that it is good to share.

As a mom of two sons and eventually a teacher’s aide, I often taught the art of sharing.

 

But as an adult, I now realize that there are some things that we do not want to share.

Nasty cold germs.

Financial problems due to poor decisions or lack of self-control.

A life’s worth of clutter for others to clean up after I die.

Days filled with too much complaining.

Constant words of criticism.

 

These are just a few of the things we should keep to ourselves (or in many cases, get help or change!).

 

But there are many positive things we want to share with those we find around us.

A smile.

A cheery or encouraging word.

A message of hope.

Special and thoughtful gifts (big or small).

Sincere empathy, thoughts and prayers.

A helping hand.

Even a loving but gentle rebuke (spoken in love to someone to which we have become close and earned the right).

Good advice.

A listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

 

It may cost us something, but often it doesn’t have to.

But we will gain far more than we give.

So let’s share the good things.

Let’s bless another, and in turn, be blessed.

These are the things we want to share.

*****

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list? This is just a start.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

fields with cows and Adirondack chairs

What I Learned this Summer

fields with cows and Adirondack chairs

My sister’s cow pasture and garden at Laird Family Farm. 🙂

It’s time again to write about What We Learned and link up with Emily P. Freeman‘s post to share what we learned this summer. This is one of my favorite times to reflect back on the important, fun or even meaningless things I have learned over the past quarter of the year.

1 Tom Longboat is recognized as “Canada’s greatest long-distance runner”.

Being a Canadian (who just happens to live happily in the US) who has never been into sports, I had never heard of Tom Longboat. But one day Google alerted me to the facts that he was a long-distance runner who used innovative training, became the first member of a First Nations community to win the Boston Marathon, and was even inducted into Canada’s Hall of Fame.

2.  I have mostly decided that using Borax is safe.

Many people use Borax to make their own home cleaning and other “natural” products. In the ongoing debate about whether or not Borax is a safe product to use, I think I agree with this blog post. The author clearly and thoroughly lays out many facts and arguments to think about when deciding if you wish to use this product. If you have questions, give it a read and decide for yourself.

3. The official Bullet Journal website offers their own journal for purchase, as well as a bullet journal app.

I’ve been using my bullet journal off and on now (and trying to get back to using it regularly again!) for a couple of years. It’s my best solution to the quest for a method of planning that allows for both practical record-keeping as well as inspirational thought and creativity. Basically, it can be whatever the owner wants and needs it to be. While there are many variations and embellishments to this planning format, the original bullet journal is where many of us started. Now they have their own journal available for purchase as well as a companion app, if that’s your cup of tea.

4. I looked up the difference between naturopathic & integrative medicine.

In the quest to learn more about more “natural” methods of caring for ourselves and our loved ones it’s good to have an understanding of the different methods and ideologies out there. I wanted to learn more about two of these ideas, namely naturopathy and Integrative Medicine. Rather than attempt to reword their definitions (or risk plagiarism!), I thought it most helpful to include these quotes and links to more information from the professionals:
Natural medicine can also be referred to as naturopathy; it is a form of alternative medicine which involves homeopathy, herbalism, acupuncture, diet and lifestyle counselling, and more… The ideology behind natural medicine revolves around vitalism and self-healing, meaning naturopaths will tend to advise their patients to avoid modern medicines, pharmacological drugs, vaccinations and medical operations.
Integrative Medicine (IM) is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.

5. Here’s the real, scientific explanation for how to best cook rice in a pressure cooker.

If you own a modern pressure cooker such as an Instant Pot, most likely one of the first foods you learned to cook is rice. As simple as it seems, I’ve found as many different ideas as there are varieties of rice. The following article is really helpful to give you some practical tips and explain the science behind how cooking rice in a slow cooker actually works:
https://instantpot.com/how-to-cook-perfect-rice-in-an-electric-pressure-cooker/

6. I looked up the meaning of the word catharsis.

My Dad recently bought a small sailboat whose given name was Catharis. Naturally, we were curious to find out it’s meaning. Vocabulary.com suggests:
Use the noun catharsis to refer to the experience a person can have of releasing emotional tension and feeling refreshed afterwards. 
Perfect name for a sailboat!

7. You can not only eat broccoli stems, but also the leaves.

According to this article, not only can you eat your broccoli leaves, but they are as nutritious as kale.

8. MyJoe is a great little gem!

Some time back, we had to replace our dying Kuerig coffee maker. We were not sure we wanted to continue to go the k-cup route, especially because I wasn’t particularly thrilled with some newer models forcing you to either use affiliated brands or resort to the hack. (Who did they think they were fooling?) After doing our due diligence and asking around, we decided on a coffee making system that allows one to brew different sizes of cups or caraffes, as well as brew over ice or make specialty drinks. While it’s a lot of fun and overall we love it, I missed the variety of specially flavored coffees I had previously enjoyed in k-cups. So I found and purchased this little hand brewer, which has proven to be a cheap but effective solution to my flavored coffee fetish. What’s more, MyJoe is small and only requires hot water to brew, so it can be used in powerless situations such as enjoying camping or enduring a power outage.

9. Southern Florida or the Everglades is the only place in the world where one can find both crocs and gators.

You can read more on that scary fact here, or review the differences between crocodiles and alligators here. Personally, I’m just staying away from anything bigger than my cats with that many sharp teeth.

10. There may not be an ideal substitution for cilantro.

But many of us are still looking for one. The herb cilantro seems to be either loved or hated. Many even claim it tastes like soap. (Which may be a matter of genes?) While I don’t think it tastes anything like soap, I myself and my family members do not really care for it’s flavor. Some acceptable common substitutions are basil, celery leaves or dill, or even mint leaf. Other more exotic ideas are Thai basil or Mexican papalo (although I wouldn’t know what they looked like or where to find them). Flat leaf or Italian parsley can be used in a pinch, but some say it’s not appropriate, as it has quite a different flavor.

11. Shreddies, the popular Canadian breakfast cereal, was first produced by Nabisco in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1939.

That’s within twenty minutes from where I grew up, so no wonder it’s one of the few cereals we almost always had in the house. At that time, there was only the original flavor, but now it is available in several special variations, such as honey or banana bread. It was later produced in the UK, and apparently there has been some controversy in Australia, where it has been both sold privately “on a kind of breakfast cereal black market” and smuggled from the UK in people’s suitcases.

12. I really enjoy whooping it up with the young people at a good Christian concert.

We recently attended SoulFest, a popular Christian music festival held in nearby New Hampshire. My family has always loved music and my parents have kept their love of all kinds of music into their senior years, including rock and other louder, more rhythmic genres. I noticed we weren’t the only (or the oldest) people in the crowd, but I also observed that most of the others in the “revival pit” (up front, right near the stage) were significantly younger.     I must admit, I had a blast, kept myself moving or clapping, and even jumped around a bit.        

13. I’ve made peace with the idea that I don’t have to go on scary roller coasters anymore.

When I was a teenager, I learned the frightening fun of riding roller coasters. We would go to our favorite Canada’s Wonderland theme park at least once every summer. There were the smooth metal ones that looped around or traveled in a corkscrew and the old wooden coasters that throttled us down high slopes like a freight train. The last and most challenging coaster I rode was a stand-up version, and I must say, that was scary enough for me at that youthful age. My sister told of a time in recent years (now that we are both middle aged adults), where she rode as a partner to a young person when she was helping to supervise the youth group. She realized as they climbed higher that it was not as fun as it used to be. What made things worse, when she looked up she discovered that they hadn’t even made it half way up the climb! Later, she would find out that the roller coasters of today are much taller than the ones we thought were high. You can read about the new heights and even experience the ride through videos, but I think my roller coaster days are done, even though they say the rides are also more safe as well. After starting to experience some vertigo a few years ago and admittedly finding the idea of riding coasters more terrifying than fun anymore, I think I’m OK with being done with scary and physically demanding rides. I no longer have anything to prove. I’ve been in labor twice, watched my husband go through heart bypass surgery, and generally seen life for over 52 years…so I think I’m good.
So what have you been learning lately???