snowy pine tree

One Thing I’ve Learned in (Almost) 50 Years…..

snowy pine tree

Today we got the snow that we’ve been waiting for all winter (well, some of us, at least).

We’ve only had a little snow so far this winter, and any we got has melted away within days. In fact, it’s been unseasonably warm for New England.

But today we got about six to eight inches of sticky, wet snow.

snowy branches and sky

It was fairly warm, so it clung tenaciously to the branches and rooftops, until the wind picked up and blew it around, creating a momentary blizzard effect.

As I was out shoveling along with my neighbor across the street, at one point we heard a loud crack. Looking to see what on earth was making such a noise, we caught sight of a very large limb falling out of another neighbor’s tree. Fortunately, it didn’t look like it did any damage, and I’m thankful no-one was hurt.

As I was working, I began to realize that it was the ultimate snowman-making snow.

snowy mailbox

So when my portion was complete, I first took some cold, snowy pictures, careful not to let my camera and my tablet get too wet in the process.

Then I began to build my snowman.

shoveling with snowman

My teenage son doing his share.

I still remember (and my parents have some photos or slides somewhere, I believe), my grandmother building a snowman in her front yard when she was probably in her sixties. She lived right next to us in my early childhood years, alone for many years after my grandfather died of a heart attack in his fifties, but she definitely still knew how to have fun and stay young.

Update from 09/16/16: I’m so thrilled to have been given a photo of two of my Grandma’s snowmen to share with you! Thanks to my thoughtful Mom, this 1983 photo was included in a memory box she gave to me for Christmas. In it are many photos and a few little trinkets to remind me of my dear Grandmother, who passed on this past year. Grandma would have been about 61 years of age when she built these particular “twins” in her front yard. 🙂

my grandmother's snowmen "twins"

My Grandmother’s snowmen “twins”, built with love in her front yard in 1983. Grandma was about 61 years of age.

 

snowman, snowlady

Me and my new friend.

Yes, I’m now almost fifty (only a few short months away).

 

snowlady Feb 2016

 

Yes, I had lots of “more important” things to do today.

 

home with snowlady 2-5-16

 

Yes, the neighbors may think I’m a nut.

 

snowlady close-up

Isn’t she beautiful?

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my almost fifty years of life (especially growing up in Ontario, Canada 🙂 ), it’s not to miss out on building a snowman when the snow is just right.

 

back of snowman

I think she has her arms raised in worship. 🙂

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning the importance of living in the moment, enjoying this fleeting life for all it’s worth.

 

Live, Laugh, Love

 

And later in the afternoon, I glanced out the window to see a most stunning view of the late afternoon sunlight on the treetops. Grabbing my camera, my sneakers and no coat (so as not to miss the breathtaking sky), I ran outside and shivered while I took pictures, soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

sunlight on treetops

home with snowy trees

golden treetop

snowy pine with pink sky

house with snow and pink sky

trees with pink sky and snow

*****

Have you ever built a snowman, as an adult, and NOT because you were helping a child? What other types of activities do you engage in to keep yourself “young” at heart?

 

 

duck swimming

Look at the Birds…

Hebrews 13:5-6

Being the “good” Christian that I am, of course I don’t love money. Besides, I’m not rich, so there’s no chance of worshiping money. I’ve got that one down.

But wait a minute: “…be satisfied with what you have” ???

That part hit me square in the nose.

You see, if I’m really honest, I have trouble with contentment. Not always; sometimes I am so happy and thankful for all of the many blessings I know that I have been given. Truly, I am. But other times…..

No matter in what financial state you find yourself, there is room for discontent. Especially when money is tight, it’s easy to feel that there isn’t enough. But if you have enough or perhaps are even rich, you may still long for more than what you have. Our human nature tends towards greed, and our culture doesn’t help. There’s always someone with a bigger, newer, nicer house, car, job, family, vacation…..the list goes on.

So why is it so difficult to remain focused on the blessings, rather than our apparent lack?

Discontent is lack of thankfulness or gratitude, to be sure, but I think sometimes it goes deeper than that. I believe that often my feelings of dissatisfaction are fueled by an inner fear that there will not be enough. How can I trust that God will provide when sometimes I feel I must do without?

There is an answer within this passage. Look at the words again. God promises to never fail us, to never leave us, so that means that we have a choice.

We can choose to trust him and have no fear. Does that mean we will never have moments of doubt, sleepless nights, and thoughts and emotions of worry? I don’t think so. We are not yet perfect.

But I believe that when we are confronted with fear, God wants us to face it, then turn and look to him. And there we find the one place where there is no fear.

It’s not always easy, but he promises to care for us.  duck swimming

 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” – Matthew 6:25-26

 

So next time you feel dissatisfied, look deeper.

Do not worry.

Look at the birds; observe the simple trust illustrated in nature.

Keep your focus on the One in whom there is no fear.

And be satisfied.

*****

Are you prone to fear? What do you do when you feel you don’t have enough? Have you ever taken a walk or hike and found peace in observing God’s creation?

 

Bible, journal and tea

This One’s For Your Spirit

 

Bible, journal and tea

Quiet Time

Hi friends! This year I’ve been enjoying finding and sharing various ways that we can make positive changes in our lives, and it’s never too late to start. First I shared about a 91 Day Declutter Challenge, then suggested another way to tackle several differnt changes in a 12 Mini Goals Challenge .

Today I’m really excited to share a challenge for your spirit! I was intending on discussing the benefits of the Bible App and YouVersion, and low and behold, they are staring a 21-day challenge tomorrow, February 1st, 2016!

So what better time to jump right in and check it out!

Do you ever struggle with wanting to read your Bible or do a study every day, but you just don’t always know where to start, what book or verses to read, or how to go about it in a practical way? Sometimes these obstacles can even distract us from spending any time in the Word at all!

I’ve been using YouVersion for some time now, and really enjoy and find it useful. You can sign up for the Verse-of-the-Day, read Bible verses and passages and share them with “friends” (with whom you link up, similar to Facebook), even make beautiful and impacting verse images on your mobile device to share on social media, and one of my favorites, chose and participate in one of numerous and varied Bible devotional plans.

Our church is one of many who provide the option of using The Bible App to follow along with the Sunday message and even take notes.

And the wonderful thing is these helpful tools are all free.

Let me tell you a little more about the plans YouVersion has to offer.

There are many, many interesting topics to chose from, with commitments from as short as three days to as long as a whole year. Each day includes a thought-provoking reading, a Scripture verse (or verses) or one or more passages to read, and usually a prayer. I really enjoyed one particular plan that had an optional music accompaniment. I found it very a relaxing and worshipful addition to my quiet time.

You can chose a plan that suits your desires, needs and your schedule. There is even a setting called, “Catch Me Up”, so if you miss a day, you can continue on without a hitch. This just may be the best few minutes of your day!

This special challenge is provided to help us form a good habit of spending time in God’s Word and in prayer daily. To participate, you simply need to complete a day (or more) of one of the YouVersion Bible plans each day for twenty-one days. There will even be daily prizes and a grand prize to help motivate you even more.

So what have you got to lose???

There is EVERYTHING to gain!!!

Why not download The Bible App to your mobile device, or participate on your computer or laptop (as I mostly do), and start right away? Join me today!

*****

Have you ever tried YouVersion, The Bible App or subscribed to a verse-of-the-day? Have you found it helpful in your desire to spend time with God more regularly? If not, are you willing to give it a try? What sort of plan would interest you most?

 

 

 

 

homemade croutons

Making Something Delicious Out of Nothing (How to Make Your Own Croutons From Random Bread Scraps)

homemade croutons

Lately I’ve been inspired to do some serious decluttering. That topic, in itself, could be another whole series of blog posts (of which I am not yet the expert).

But for today, I am going to share with you an easy little recipe that will help you to declutter your freezer.

Did you know that you can make your own tasty, inexpensive and not-filled-with-gunk croutons? These taste so good, you’ll probably have to do as I do, and politely ask your family members NOT to consume them all before you get to enjoy the croutons on your salads.

The original recipe came from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1989). This is the one basic recipe book I chose and purchased when I was newly married (yes, we were married in 1989).  I have used their recipe as a guide. A modern rendition of their recipe can be found here, along with some more options for you to try.

I will now demonstrate how to make delicious croutons from your leftover scraps of old bread.

It should be noted that the way to make this recipe out of “nothing”, is to create a habit of keeping any scraps of bread you don’t use in your freezer.  I don’t know about you, but I seriously hate to throw away food. Part of this is likely because of how I was raised. My parents were frugal and taught me not to waste, but I especially learned from my grandparents, who told us stories of surviving The Great Depression. Not only that, but wasting food is too much like throwing hard-earned money out of the window.

The next best option would be to take advantage of your local supermarket’s “day old” bread rack. Most markets offer at least 30% off of day old bread, and often much more savings can be found. (Again, a topic for another post!)

So either find some fish or ducks to eat your stale bread, or make croutons (but I recommend the latter).

You could make these with fresh bread and they’d be just as yummy, but I love creating something delicious to eat out of stuff that cost me nothing, since it could easily have been thrown away.

I toss any of the following into the bottom section of my freezer, usually right in their original bags:

  • any variety of slightly stale store-bought bread (but especially good are artisan or bakery breads)
  • extra unused rolls from hot-dogs and such (even the cheap white-bread kind)
  • heels from your bread (the part that no-one really wants to eat)
  • leftover homemade bread that is no longer of optimal freshness (mine are usually leftovers from the bread-maker after two or three days).
stale bread

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I usually triple or quadruple this crouton recipe, depending upon how much stale bread I have accumulated and/or how many croutons I wish to make. I also really like to mix several different varieties of bread for more flavor and visual appeal.

 

Homemade Croutons

Here’s the ingredient list (for a single recipe):

  • about 2 cups cubed bread
  • 1/4 butter or less (the real stuff; no margarine!)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (alternately you may use other seasonings such as 1 tsp dill or 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; my favorite combination is to use both garlic and dill)

 

  1. The first step is to assemble your bread. If it is frozen, you either need to take it out of the freezer at least a half hour before you want to use it (preferred), or “cheat” and use your microwave on a low setting (being careful not to overheat the bread and make it mushy).

white bread cubes

dark bread cubes

2. Next, you need to cut the bread into whatever size cubes you’d like. Some recipes suggest tearing the bread, which is also an easy option if you don’t prefer cubes (like some of us “neat-freaks”).

mixed bread cubes

3. Melt the butter and stir in your seasonings.

melted butter and seasonings

pouring butter and seasonings

4. Toss the butter/seasoning mixture and bread cubes thoroughly. (Start stirring quickly before the liquid starts absorbing into just one section of your bread.)

mixing bread and seasonings

5. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. (I love to use my Pampered Chef stoneware, but any cookie sheet will do.)

unbaked croutons on sheet

6. Bake at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake at least another 5 to 10 minutes. You will need to take out your pans often to see if they are done. Always stir the cubes if returning them to the oven.

croutons in oven

7. The croutons are done when the edges are lightly browned and they are slightly crisp. Be careful not to overcook them; they will “harden up” a little when they cool. Cool on pan until they can be stored (if you can refrain from gobbling them all up right away!)

finished croutons

8. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in your fridge. Enjoy!

 

Besides being delicious on salads, homemade croutons make a delicious snack (just ask my sons). There are a variety of other uses for croutons, including as a topping for baked fish or chicken.

crouton topping for baked fish

 

baked fish with crouton topping

*****

So tell me, do you love croutons? Have you ever made your own? I’d also love to hear of any other delicious ideas for using your homemade croutons in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

the struggle between flesh and spirit

The Fight

Galations 5.16-17

 

OK….I admit it.

I did it again. And it seems I keep on doing it.

Do I have your attention now?

Maybe you’ve done it, too. Actually, it is probably more accurate to speak of what I have not done.

Oh, it’s not some horrible crime or obvious neglect. It’s just that daily struggle to put “first things first” and not be distracted.

This past Saturday I awoke with all the good intentions that I so often profess, and proceeded about my day. I probably threw in a load of laundry, cleaned up the kitchen a little and turned on my computer.

Once at my laptop, I probably looked for “just a minute” at Facebook, or checked “just a couple” of emails.

And before I knew it, it had happened again.

My intended priority is to spend some quiet time with God. But as so often is the case, I allow myself to be distracted by life. Yes, often by “good”  and “necessary” actions, but not what I intend to be the priority.

There are tools, tricks and plans to help us with our morning routines and our devotional life, but the first gadget I need is discipline.

Why is it so hard to simply apply oneself to sitting quietly to read God’s Word, think and pray a little?

It’s an age-old flesh and blood struggle, my friend.

The apostle Paul speaks of this battle clearly in Romans 7, where he discusses this predicament. Pay special attention to verses fourteen to twenty-five, which discuss our familiar struggle between the flesh (our human feelings and desires), and the spirit (that inner part of us that belongs to God).

 

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

 

And the result? It varies between mediocrity and downright disaster. This particular Saturday was somewhere in between, with one of the first events being a “disagreement” between my husband and I. I don’t even remember what it was about; all I know is it brought upon me the sudden realization of my mistake.

I need God to get through this life. I need him more than the air I breathe. But in the natural flow of our normal days, it’s so easy to forget the absolute necessity of this relationship.

So you see how it is.

And I know you’ve felt it, too.

Even if you are not a Christian, don’t you notice how hard it is to do good and those things that are truly important on a consistent basis?

Thankfully, the answer is also found in this scripture. It’s in Christ Jesus our Lord. We first need to accept the gift of himself offered to us, and then we need to pursue this relationship with him.

It won’t be a “magic bullet” or some guarantee that everything will go right, but it sure is a step in the right direction.

I want to let the Holy Spirit guide my life (as stated in the Galatians passage above), and to stand and fight against the desires of my flesh. I know that when I put him first and apply my focus to what is best and most important, I at least have a chance of doing things his way.

In short, I’m more likely to have a better day.

Yes, the milk may still spill, there will be conflicts and questions, life will still be “real”…..but I will be prepared and my mind and spirit filled with the strength, peace and wisdom from God. He will show me and remind me of what I am to do, and Lord willing, I will do it.

I am excited to share with you soon about some of the “tools” I’ve found that can help us to have a more successful morning. But for today, I encourage you to do just one thing right first thing.

Spend time with him.

*****

Do you struggle with doing what you know is important first thing in the morning? Do you intend to spend time with God first? What tools have you found to be helpful in setting proper priorities? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

 

 

Jessica Smith yoga exercise dvd

Let’s Eat an Elephant – another New Year (mini-) challenge

Jessica Smith yoga exercise dvd

Well, we’re three weeks in to the new year…..and how are those “resolutions” going?

According to this interesting article (written in 2013), although an impressive 40 % of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% actually achieve them.

But here’s an idea that’s a little more encouraging, from the American Psychological Association :

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”

Earlier this month, I mentioned my desire to share some worthwhile tools to help us with our goals, especially in the new year. There are many people sharing all sorts of wonderful ideas, challenges, courses, etc., in order to help us achieve new success in various areas of our lives. The best thing about the challenges I am sharing is that they are free.

Today I’d like to share a 12 Mini Goals Challenge from Emily at Morning Motivated Mom. Her idea is to focus on several small, manageable challenges, a new mini habit or goal each month. Emily is even including a nice printable to go along with each habit. I like it.

Here’s my chart as of yesterday (using my free printable from Morning Motivated Mom), for January’s exercise challenge. Notice I only started this on January 19th, but that’s OK, because it’s better to do something imperfectly, rather than nothing at all. Feel free to jump in, too.

There is a suggested new challenge for each month, but you can tweak her idea if a particular monthly goal doesn’t quite fit. This seems like a win-win challenge to me!

In my previous post, I shared that it’s more effective to make attainable goals, rather than just resolutions (with no practical goals or steps).

You’ve heard it said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

So if you are still looking for encouragement to reach some new goals this year (or perhaps already feel like you’re “failing” at your existing 2016 New Year’s resolutions), why not join me and sign up for this valuable challenge?

So, really…..how ARE you doing at your goal-setting or habit-changing efforts so far this year? I’d love to hear of any successes or ideas you’d be willing to share.

Here’s to happy “elephant bites” in 2016!

*****

 

junk pile

Junk Piles

junk pile

 

Have you ever looked out of a window and had to deal with a view filled with junk? I have.

It’s not a good feeling. In fact, it almost feels like a violation, to have your view accosted by garbage.

Recently I had such a window view. It gave me such an unpleasant feeling, and I proceeded to complain, criticize, even judge the perpetrators of the junk pile.

But, as so often happens with me, I immediately began to sense a lesson. And as soon as I begin to judge others, I am quickly reminded of my own short-comings.

You see, we all have junk piles.

Some of them are like the ones we can easily view outside of a window. They refuse to be hidden, refuse to just go away, and are difficult to avoid. They are in plain sight of the world.

Others are more secret. like the piles or clutter in our own real life basements: hidden, out of sight, and unknown to many.

But they all need to be dealt with. They all clutter our hearts and negatively affect the lives of those around us.

I am aware of some outward junk piles in my life. But because of (the introverted part of) my personality, most who do not know me well would not “see” my junk piles.  They may not even be aware that they exist.

But my family and those I love the most often live blatantly staring at my junk. I am guilty of presenting my sins or the result of my “un-dealt-with” stuff to those with whom I am closest.

I don’t want to keep my junk piles for myself;  I don’t wish to share them with my loved ones; I certainly don’t want to leave them out for anyone to see.

I have to realize that what I do, and especially what I say, can be “junk” to my listeners’ hearts…..or it can give life.

And I don’t want this junk to be my legacy. I want to chose words and deeds that are life-giving. I want my influence to be a positive one. I desire to bring love, and peace, and growth to those around me.

Whether the whole world sees it outside my window, or whether I only present it to those who are close enough that I allow them into my “basement”, I chose to banish the junk. I purpose to clean it up.

And I need Someone to help me.

Lord, help me to live unashamedly. Forgive me for uncontrolled words and actions that kill, rather than heal. Help me to speak and live more like you…..both in my public and private life. Amen.

 

   ” The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain;
    the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.”

   Proverbs 10:11 (NLT)

“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” 

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

” And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Romans 8:2 (NLT)

flower in cupped hands

 

*****

 

 

 

 

 

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Just in time for next Christmas 😉

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Work with me here, folks.

I know it’s a little late to share a Christmas gift jar idea, but I just launched my blog, it’s taking me a little bit to learn the ropes and get into the swing of it, and my head was overflowing with so many Christmas ideas that I could write about them for weeks.

But I won’t do that to you.

So if you’re a Christmas Day purist (in the sense that the day after Christmas you start taking down all the decorations, refuse to listen to one more Christmas carol, and throw out the uneaten holiday cookies)….then you’re NOT going to like this. You can stop reading right now (and whatever you do….do NOT look at all the nice photos below that may contain “Christmasy” stuff), and maybe by next year I’ll catch you again before the holidays.

However, if you’re like me, there’s still just a little bit of Christmas spirit left unexpressed that can’t quite wait for another whole year. I’ve just seen a couple of pictures on Facebook of people with a Christmas tree still up; so I’m not that bad! (OK, now that I’m finally finishing this post mid-January, even I am ready to be done with Christmas…..but bear with me.)

The best thing about this idea is that it’s not just for Christmas!

Sure, my photos will demonstrate mostly “Christmasy” looking jars, but they can be decorated for any other appropriate holiday (Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Gift Jars, anyone? In which case, you’re actually EARLY.)

If you need a little housewarming gift or something to take to a hostess this winter, these will fit the bill.

 

So let’s get started.

 

First, you need to assemble a collection of jars. I used pint-sized mason jars, and adjusted the amounts from this recipe

I also used an assortment of colors, including both blue and purple “vintage” colored jars for my gifts. Since the beauty of using jars for gifts is that they are reusable, I thought that some of my friends would love to receive a tinted jar.

tinted mason jars

 

For each pint jar, you will need the following ingredients:

 

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup powdered milk

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup miniature chocolate chips

¼ cup miniature marshmallows (you could also use a dehydrated marshmallow such as these)

 

Each pint gift jar makes six servings.

 

ingredients for layered cocoa jars

 

Gather up your ingredients, clear a nice, big space on your kitchen counter or table, and get layering! Start with the sugar and end with the marshmallows.

 

layering cocoa gift jars

layering cocoa gift jars 2

layering cocoa gift jars 3

layering cocoa gift jars 4

Here are some notes to make filling your jars a success:

-Use a canning jar funnel to help pour each layer into the jar.

-Be CAREFUL when adding each layer. It’s difficult to make the layers nice and even (even for a recovering perfectionist, like me), so take care and take your time, so as not to mix the layers.

-GENTLY tapping the jar and/or carefully “stirring” or smoothing the top layer with a utensil may help to even the layer you’re working on.

-Add extra marshmallows to the top of the jar to fill it completely. This will look better and more importantly, keep the ingredients from sliding around and mixing when moved.

 

filled cocoa gift jars

 

Next, decorate your jars as you wish, including tying festive ribbons around them, and possibly a doily or sticker to adorn the lid. Attach a pretty tag with these simple instructions (I simplified them from the original recipe, per my husband’s advice): Mix contents. Use ⅓ cup cocoa mix per 1 cup boiling water (or milk). Store airtight.

 

decorating layered cocoa jars

decorating layered cocoa jars 2

Here are some Christmas tags I designed for my jars that I would like to share with you. 🙂

(*stay tuned…download coming soon!)

Obviously, if you’re not giving these for Christmas, you’ll need to “de-Christmasify” (that’s a word, right?) your tags.

(*download for winter tags coming soon!)

 

making cocoa gift tags

 

You could cut and paste these paper tags onto card stock or other heavy-weight paper for your tags and hole-punch them, or simply use appropriately sized store-bought gift tags like I did. (Do NOT buy them at full price, though, PLEASE! That’s a post for another day.)

 

layered cocoa gift jars 2

Notice how some are “Christmasy” while others are just “wintry”?

 

You can really use any hot cocoa mix recipe you like or any size jar, but you’ll have to do the calculations to figure out how much of each ingredient to place in each different sized jar. You could also change up the add-ins if you like.

The hot chocolate mix recipe on this page looks like another version I may try next time. The addition of crushed candy canes looks festive and delicious.

I think my gift recipients all really liked their cocoa jars. We tried the cocoa mixture here at home and decided that it is REALLY chocolatey. That’s why I added the idea of using hot milk rather than hot water. I may try to adjust amounts a little differently next time around.

So that’s it, folks! Enjoy making and sharing these heart-warming presents with someone you love.

Have you ever made layered hot cocoa in jars, or do you have another exciting layered-in-a-jar recipe you’d like to share?

*****

 

Psalms 84:11

What Are You Lacking?

Psalms 84v11

What are you lacking?

I often feel I am lacking something. Too often, I compare what I don’t have to what someone else has.

Many times I have found myself feeling sorry for myself, when the Bible says, “The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” (Psalms 84:11)

How is it that we who live in the twenty percent of the world with eighty percent of the wealth can feel we are lacking in material things?

It’s not just about stuff.

I have also compared my gifts or abilities or how much I think I am noticed to the outward displays of others’ talents or ministries. It’s too easy to compare our “real life” with what we perceive as someone else’s life by way of the nice photos they share on social media.

But God tells me that He isn’t withholding anything good from me.

It’s a simple verse, really, but yet so hard to believe.

The straightforwardness of this scripture speaks clearly to my heart.

But I have to be constantly reminded.

Perhaps I don’t understand what constitutes a “good” gift. Am I really so shallow that I can only accept from God what feels comfortable, fits into my perspective, and is something I think I can handle as “good”?

What about those things that stretch me, wake me up, and cause me to grow closer to Him?

The Bible is quite clear.

But what about the part that states, “from those who do what is right”? Is that me? Do I fit into this category of those to whom He withholds no good thing?

I believe that to do “what is right” is not requiring perfection, but an honest attempt to do what’s right based on our relationship with the One who is himself righteous. If we are following Him, even imperfectly, we are “right” in God’s eyes, based on what Jesus did for us on the cross. When we accept his provision for our sins, God counts us as righteous.

So what is it that you’re lacking?

The next time you feel a sense of lack, I challenge you along with me, to stop and consider what God has already told us. He will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

Maybe He just wants to get our attention and have us allow Him to be everything we need.

Maybe He’s just calling us to trust Him.

Perhaps we just need to count our blessings.

Here’s a book (and there’s a video study, too), that may help you cultivate a more grateful, thankful heart. It certainly changed my perspective.

I am endeavoring to record daily those things, both big and small, that deserve my attention and my gratitude.

Do you ever feel that you are lacking? How do you remind yourself to be grateful in all circumstances of life? Have you ever recorded blessings in a gratitude journal?

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buster the cat in donation box.

Make Goals – Not Resolutions (And a Declutter challenge.)

Buster the cat in donation box.

My cat Buster, all ready to go.

 

Have you recovered yet from all those pesky and guilt-provoking thoughts about New Year’s resolutions?

Although we’re almost far enough into January to be in the “safe zone”, if you’re like me, you really DO want to make changes in your life. As scary as it may seem, it is the only way to truly grow into the people that God made us to be, and to accomplish our purposes for being here.

I have been perusing blogs and other articles since New Year’s Day, thinking and praying about what changes I need to make this year in my life. If you’ve been reading my blog so far (the first three posts), you will know that my word for 2016 seems to be “Change”.

I shared how I especially find myself in a season of transition, and how I am purposing to embrace the good changes that God has for me.

In order to do that, though, I need some specific goals, and action steps which will help me to get there.

For so many years, I have felt like life was running me. Like a hamster in a running wheel, I have often felt overwhelmed just with getting “the basics” done. I’ve felt like much of my time has been spent trying to catch up or just to keep my head above water.

One of the goals I’m working on is to live my life more intentionally. I’m also learning to understand how keeping it simple plays am important role in the process.

I’d like to share some of this journey with you, and for January 2016, I wish to share with you some tools I’ve found that can help us to grow.

Now, don’t be tempted, as I have been, to try to join and accomplish ALL of these challenges. But if a particular suggestion sparks something in you and I can even help one person to live better this year, it will be worth my sharing.

Oh, yeah. It seems “too late” already, doesn’t it? I mean, most of you have already put away all your Christmas and New Year’s stuff and are getting back in the swing of “regular” life. And some of these challenges are already underway. It’s tempting to just forget about resolutions and change, and just get on with life’s routine.

May I implore and encourage you NOT to give up; to jump in whenever you can; it’s never too late!

ANY change, big or small, will be an improvement in your life and motivate you to continue to grow and make permanent changes.

***

I don’t know about you, but the condition that causes THE MOST STRESS IN MY LIFE is clutter.

It affects everything I do, my thoughts and feelings about myself as a person and homemaker. It distracts, taunts and discourages me almost daily. It’s been a problem for me for years, and I’m ready to CHANGE the way I do things to ban clutter from my home!

I’ve even noticed it affects something as basic as attempting to take nice photos for my new blog…..because too often there is STUFF in the way!

Sure, I’ve made baby steps in this area, but if there is one thing I would like to change most in my life FOR GOOD this year, it’s to deal with my clutter!

The first step is to DECLUTTER.

I anticipate some future posts on how to create better systems to prevent clutter in the first place. But we have to start somewhere.

Here’s one of the best challenges I’ve come across so far, and I’ve decided to jump in!

Check out this 91 Day Declutter Challenge and see if it’s for you.

Remember, you DO NOT have to do this perfectly!

In fact, as I began to investigate the challenge, my enthusiasm was quickly followed by discouragement, almost causing me to ditch the whole thing. But realizing how important this is to me, even though I won’t do it every day nor completely this time around, I have committed to the effort to do what I can.

There is even a Facebook group to join, where you can both share your photos and experiences and encourage others in the process. I have to say, I’ve been amazed at the level of kindness and encouragement of group members on this page! I encourage you to dive in and join the page, as well. You won’t regret it.

This is already Week #2 of the 91 Day Declutter Challenge, but as you will quickly see, it’s OK to start now, wherever you’re at, and do what you can in your real life situation.

Week #1 (last week) was focused on our laundry room areas.

Here are some photos I shared on the Facebook page last week:

 

2016-01-06 18.23.24

Decluttering my buffet & hutch…stuff I’m getting rid of…except for the cat. 🙂

 

(Please excuse the quality of the pictures, which were quickly taken on my little tablet for expediency. You get the idea, though.)

 

2016-01-06 23.26.13

Newly organized and back to where it was over ten years ago. 🙂

 

But WAIT…..that’s NOT the laundry room!

RIGHT! Get it???

I did what I could; what I had to do, in order to get my packages out of the door the next morning for a scheduled donation pick-up (one way to help force yourself to declutter). Over the holidays, I had already noticed several items in this cupboard that I’ve been holding onto for over twenty years! I even had little teacups (the ones we “modern” coffee drinkers don’t use any more), from not one, but TWO sets of dishes that I didn’t even own any more!

So I proceeded on “laundry room week” to declutter my buffet and hutch area, as well as some miscellaneous items that I had noticed around the house.

I even dared to share these photos on the designated Facebook page, even though I wasn’t on the “right” room.

To my pleasant surprise, I was SO encouraged and motivated in the process. I donated two large boxes and two large bags of dishes and other miscellaneous stuff I collected around my home. And I decided that I needed to share this with you!

I plan to continue this challenge, even though I won’t do it perfectly. It’s a great start for me on my process to decluttering my home.

***

When my boys were little, I remember watching a children’s video (on a VHS tape), about Mouse and Mole.  Am I the only one who is often spoken to by teachings designed for children?

Anyway, the two friends, Mouse and Mole, live together with opposite personality traits. In this particular episode, they attempt to clean one room in their house, and succeed…….only to find they’ve deposited all of the stuff into another room instead.

Here are the words that have stayed with me to this day. It may have been intended for children, but it’s truth for all ages:

“You can have stuff or you can have space,” Mouse advises. “You can’t have both.”

What would you rather have, “stuff” or “space”?

*****