Herbs in the Snow

A Year to Simplify

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

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Herbs in the Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

various miniature winter trees

When Christmas Feels Different

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

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various miniature winter trees

This Christmas feels a little different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

What I Learned this Fall

 

 

St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

It’s one of the times I look forward to each quarter when I pause to look back and share what I’ve learned with you. I’m especially thankful to be linking up to Emily Freeman’s What We Learned post along with many other bloggers.

Life has been a bit crazy around here, what with the almost sudden need for my husband to have bypass surgery just over a month ago. Thankfully he’s recovering nicely and we’re getting a little closer to “normal” again, but needless to say many things have been shelved for the past few weeks. I’ve so wanted to write on my blog so many times and only managed once.

I’ve probably learned more in this intense time than I’ve had time to record, but perhaps this will help me to process some of my experiences as I write.

And so I’m thrilled to be able to share with you today some of the things I’ve been learning this fall, whether serious or silly.

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 homemade iced coffee

1. Iced coffee was NOT invented in the US (or New England, for that matter!).

For how much folks around here love  are utterly devoted to their iced coffee, I thought for sure that it was invented in the US, and surely somewhere in New England, but it isn’t true.

The first “iced coffee” beverage was probably invented in Algeria, and the iced coffee we know and love today in the United States came much later.

 

2. I will usually fit an activity or responsibility into whatever time-frame I have available.

I guess I’ve been learning this my whole life.

It started back in college when I would stay up some nights and write (freehand, of course; computers were rather new and hardly used), a term paper in one copy, because I had left it until the last minute, forcing me to get the job done in the most efficient manner.

Recently, I’ve been cranking out my quarterly posts in record time, causing this “recovering perfectionist” to throw caution to the wind and just do it, as life has been full these past few months.

 

3. I’m learning how to brew good coffee in a french press.

With the sudden “death” of our Kuerig coffee maker, I temporarily used my French press to make coffee several times. While I am certainly not a pro, I found some good help and succeeded in making some decent coffee before purchasing our new coffee system. My French press skills may still come in handy when we are without power or a decent machine.

I found an article containing a great detailed description of French press coffee brewing methods, and for a more simple approach, I found a handy guide. I used both in my quest for good French press coffee.

Bodum French press

4. I learned the difference between licence and license. 

“Licence” is a noun, while “license” is a verb. According to this article, it’s very similar to the difference between practice and practise (although not in the USA, where “practice” is used for both noun and verb). I feel like I must have been taught this in English grammar class at some point, though I don’t claim to remember.

 

5. I knew that almonds were good for you, but now I understand why.

In this article, Dr. Axe shares the details of why this nut is such a popular healthy snack. Almonds contain healthy fat and boast many other significant health benefits. Raw almonds (and almond butter) are probably my favorite snack along with an apple or some dried fruit.

 

6. I learned about wheat pellets.

I had never heard of this popular Mexican snack food, but something caused me to look it up online. It is made of puffed wheat and often flavored. I have yet to try such a snack, but if so many people like it, it might be worth trying. This blog post contains some helpful information along with some personal experience if you’d like to learn how to prepare this interesting snack.

 

Boat in the golden hours

7. The best lighting for most outdoor photography takes place during the Golden Hour.

I’ve been taught years ago that the best lighting for outdoor picture-taking is just after sunrise or just before sunset, but just recently learned that photographers have given it a name: the golden hour. Bright sunlight looks nice in real life, but it can be difficult to get a nice photo in such harsh, bright light. In the golden hour, the light is softer and warmer, and you’ll find it easier to get beautiful photographs in this light.

Pumpkins in the golden hours

8.  I was 10 when “Slime” was invented.

In 1976, Slime was born. This sticky, slimy, fun substance was thought up by some brilliant mind at Mattel, and was originally green in color and sold in a little green trash can. Over the years many variations were invented (such as Slime with worms), and people have even figured out how to produce their own Slime.

 

9. Jon Bryant is a Canadian musician I’d like to listen to.

I heard this song by singer and songwriter Jon Bryant, and learned he’s a Canadian based in the Maritimes.

From the sounds of this lovely piece, I think I’d enjoy listening to more of his music.

 

10. I researched a little more about the health benefits of oats.

I also learned the differences between some of the different types, such as steel cut and rolled oats. This page from LiveStrong contains several posts explaining everything from the different forms of oats, to health and nutrition benefits, to how to prepare them. I have been including oats in many of my breakfasts and enjoy eating them in many different forms, such as baked oatmeal, overnight oats, and breakfast cookies.

 

11. Here’s the “miracle” method of removing clear oil/grease spots from clean laundry.

In a recent phone conversation with my dear sister, we got on to the topic of laundry, more specifically those pesky little “grease” spots that seem to appear on too many freshly laundered items. I’m still not sure exactly where they all come from, but now I know one solution! (Thanks, Becca!)

Simply take an old (cleaned) toothbrush and gently work a little baking soda into the clear grease stain. Leave it in for about five minutes. Then brush out the powder with your toothbrush and either shake to remove more particles (or rewash if it’s hard to remove).

That’s it! I’ve tried this several times since she shared this simple trick, and am happy to say that it works like a charm. Good-bye you greasy little spots!

 

12. You can make decent mashed potatoes in a slow cooker.

On this year’s unique Thanksgiving Day celebration I was commissioned to make mashed potatoes for about 30 people. Since this year the job would fall mainly to me (with help from my sons while my husband was recovering from surgery),  I began to search the internet for ideas for making potatoes for large crowds and/or in advance, and came across several methods for making them in a crock pot.

The beauty of using a slow cooker is that you can make them ahead of time and they’ll stay nice and warm. The other big draw for me was that they can all be made in one pot, without the need to drain and wash multiple pots and sieves.

So I pulled out my two trusty slow cookers and set out to cook about 15 pounds of potatoes.

After perusing and pinning several recipes to consider, I finally settled on this more basic, but good slow cooker mashed potato recipe.

Making mashed potatoes in the slow cooker

Making mashed potatoes in the crock-pot

13. I finally learned the history behind why (my) part of Canada (and a few other parts of the world) enjoy their milk packaged in bags.

For a good part of my growing up years in Canada and to this day on our visits to Canada, I’ve had milk served from a plastic bag in a little plastic pitcher.

It wasn’t always this way; I do remember having a milk box for delivery of jugs (plastic, I think), but later it was mostly sold in bags. I don’t remember the change and certainly hadn’t thought up why this practice began. I guess it had mostly to do with converting to the metric system (which also happened in my growing up years).

I did always wonder if it was a practice for all of Canada, or more limited to the area where I grew up (in the Niagara Peninsula). Since my sister posted about this on Facebook, we were able to glean responses from many folks from all different locations. We discovered that it is not used in all of Canada, but even more surprisingly, that some rare parts of the United States and even different countries such as South Africa sell milk in bags as well!

I guess it’s really true that great minds think alike! 😉

 

14. I really can depend on my GPS and drive in difficult places.

Since my husband’s bypass surgery “adventure”, I’ve had to learn to depend on my GPS and drive where I’m not comfortable. I had friends go with me and even drive me on hard days, but am proud that I progressed beyond my driving comfort zone.

 

15. God provides the people we need just when we need them.

You can read more details in my last post, but it was confirmed to us again and again through this traumatic event that friends, family, acquaintances, and medical staff come through when you need them. We had such support in both prayer and practical ways all along this interesting journey. My natural family is far away so they could only pray and chat with me, but those who are near us surprised us with their love and help. We are truly thankful.

 

*****

 

 

St. Elizabeth's - Brighton, MA

In Our Time of Need

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday, and the word prompt for today is need.

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St. Elizabeth's - Brighton, MA

 

One week and a day ago my husband was admitted to the hospital to have a stint put in place to open blocked heart arteries. He had had some symptoms checked out by his primary physician and in the course of tests, doctor appointments and the all-telling stress test, his procedure was scheduled and then moved to the very next day.

It was a big deal to us, since we’re both only 51 and in relatively good health. Although it’s considered minor and would only require an overnight stay, it felt a little scary, as anything to do with the heart does.

But low and behold, when the heart doctor went in with the camera to begin the procedure, it was determined that my husband in fact would need heart surgery. There were just too many blockages and bypass surgery would definitely be the best option for his long-term health. He was not allowed to return home because he was at too great a risk for heart attack.

So after adjusting to this news, we simply began the long plod through information, emotions, and the day to day necessities that would be required to make this happen.

It’s only two days after this difficult and frightening surgery, but he came through fine and improved rapidly, despite looking and feeling like he had been hit and run over by a truck the next day. In fact tomorrow, just four days after this invasive, but life-saving surgery, he is looking forward to being discharged and coming home.

In all of this, it has been strongly confirmed to me how real friends come through in times of need.

I truly believe in the all-knowing wisdom, never-ending love and faithfulness of God, and have had my faith and trust tested probably even more this time than in all of my half-century of life, and I don’t know how I could go through hard times without him.

But in the day to day harsh realities and moments where I feel too much or nothing at all in our time of crisis, those who truly love and care for us come through and are invaluable.

These people come in all shapes and sizes:

  •  family who live near and far
  • church friends and even just acquaintances
  • community/small group friends with whom we’ve developed deeper and more personal relationships
  • “old-time” friends whom we haven’t had the chance to spend time with recently but will always care in a deep way
  • far-away family, friends and loved ones, connecting through social media, telephone and text
  • medical personnel of all sorts – skilled and caring surgeons and knowledgeable doctors, nurses in ICU and hospital rooms who act as ministering “angels”, and random hospital personnel who help with a smile, by answering our many questions, or even by just leading the way to the correct corridor in the maze of hospital hallways.

I can’t thank God enough for sending us these people. They have helped in invaluable ways, from the very practical to the very real spiritual.

These are some of the gifts they have given us already in this time of need:

  • prayers, prayers and more prayers, whether in person, on the phone, or promised through texts and Facebook comments
  • encouragement in the form of a hug, a positive comment, simply listening and letting us vent or ask questions, or sharing valuable insight from their own experiences
  • meals for my family, so at the end of a long day when all I have left is nothing, I can still have good food to nourish myself and my older sons at home
  • rides to the hospital when it was just too much for me, or company driving to and from and providing a “secondary brain” for me there
  • finding practical solutions and helps for us and delivering them to our door with love
  • passing along updates and information when I don’t have the energy to make one more call or answer one more text
  • providing pleasant distraction, providing us with small, happy breaks in what is otherwise a long, exhausting and unpleasant journey
  • sending cards and flowers to add a bit of cheer to our crazy days

I have gone some over my five-minute mark today, but needed to express my thankfulness and deep gratitude in this small way to those who have blessed us and continue to do so.

I pray that one day we may pay it forward and provide some of these same helps and show God’s love to others in their time of need.

We will be forever changed by the words and actions of all these wonderful people.

We couldn’t do it without you.

Thank-you.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

close-up of grasshopper eating my mums

Discover

close-up of grasshopper eating my mums

I’m writing this post (actually on Friday, no less!), for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is discover.

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Discover.

The word evokes feelings of adventure, of something exciting or unknown; not generally something I find or experience every day.

And why not?

Have I become so busy doing the mundane tasks of life that I won’t allow myself the simple joy of discovery?

The answer, sadly, is mostly yes.

My personality tends towards thinking about what has to be done, what I should do in a given situation, the responsibilities that are so necessary, yet don’t often provoke wonder.

I so love that there are times to purposely observe something new or different or exciting (like on vacations, on a simple walk in the woods, or in the middle of an inspiring worship service), but I realize that most of life is not lived this way. We are simply trying to get by and sometimes just get through a day.

But what if our views were bigger?

What if even in the midst of busyness and responsibility and “to-do’s” we would choose to stop, take a moment to breathe, look up and see the wonders that are all around us?

What if I were to awake with the attitude that this is a new day, full of wonder and awe, even to be found in the middle of loads of laundry, piles of dishes, family discussions, organizing and cleaning, or going to my average job?

I pray that I will take the time, change my perspective, and look for the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Because all of life is to be lived to the full.

All of my days were planned before I was even born.

 

You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.” – Psalm 139:16, NLT

 

Even on a hard day or in difficult circumstances, I have a choice to look up and trust that God is for me and my good life.

And that brings me gratitude, hope and joy.

 

“…singing a song of thanksgiving
    and telling of all your wonders.” – Psalm 26:7, NLT

*****

 

 

 

 

 

across the street from a farm

Why I Threw Out the Beef – A Post About Caring for Myself

across the street from a farm

 

 

I confess……I did it.

I threw out over 3 pounds of ground beef today.

After agonizing for at least a half hour, re-reading information about food safety (which I pretty much had already committed to memory) in hopes of finding one decent shred of information to convince me that it was safe, and realizing how ridiculous it was to feel so emotional about a simple kitchen decision…..I just threw over 3 pounds of ground beef in the trash.

It was one of those times where the busyness of life kept pushing me to put off cooking the beef until the next day, then another day, and then another one…..until finally today when I got my courage up to look at the “sell by” date. It was already past the standard information about cooking ground beef after only 1-2 days in the fridge.

In the end, I just couldn’t take the risk. It wasn’t as obvious as the time I burnt the hot-dogs to a crisp. Even though I still think if I had cooked it well enough we probably would have been fine, the risk of four of us throwing up with food poisoning was just too great a consequence to chance.

I’m being a bit transparent here, but when push comes to shove, and for whatever reason I find myself in that place of having once again to decide whether or not cooking and consuming some food or meat is safe for my family, I hate it. I find this to be one of the most difficult life decisions that comes around now and again.

It feels like some kind of a failure.

You see, I pride myself in not wasting, whether it be food, money or other stuff. It’s important to me to be a good steward of all I own or am given charge of, so yes, it really bothers me to throw out food. I have at least one grandparent who taught me to not waste a thing. Actually, I learned from all of my grandparents who went through times when money was tight.

These stories, along with how simply finding an orange in their Christmas stockings was a rare treat, how they made do with, re-used, and foraged, the ways that they toiled over gardens, canning and cooking, and cleaning really impacted me. When I hear of how they scrimped and saved so that not only was their family provided for, but we even benefited years later as children and grandchildren, it’s made me really dislike wasting food.

When I was a teacher’s aide, one teacher friend of mine used to compliment my skills in being able to save, make do with, or “fudge it” with whatever materials we had on hand, and it made me feel good.

One of the very purposes of writing this blog is to help others by sharing how I make do with what I have, thus saving time and/or money and minimizing waste. I like to use produce (like bananas), stale bread, and leftovers and make something good to eat out of them, as well as help us to preserve the food we buy, so throwing food out is always painful to me.

Now you may be thinking by now that I should get a life, that obviously I have things too good or that I should hang around some people going through something really difficult, and on one hand you’re right. I have gone through my share of life’s difficulties, although I’m thankful they haven’t been “worse” (on the imaginary scale we all have in our hearts and minds of situations that we deem “awful”).

But in reality, sometimes it’s the day to day “little” things that can be really hard for us.

In my fifty-one plus years of living, I have often felt more successful in making some really hard decisions or in my mature response to a really difficult situation than how I’ve sometimes handled the seemingly petty ones that surreptitiously plague me on a regular day.

It’s just that I spend time scrimping and saving in little ways (that I believe add up in the end), and so a “big” waste like this seems to devalue some of the time and energy I’ve spent on smaller things.

The final straw today was when I figured out how much time and emotional energy I was spending on what should have been a day off. I decided then and there that I was worth more than three pounds or so of meat.

One of the lessons I’ve never forgotten was lovingly presented by my sister when she was here with her family for a visit some years ago. I’m not sure if she even realizes that I still remember and think about what she said. I must have been stressing over rinsing out a salad dressing bottle for recycling; the one little thing that at that busy moment was emotionally pushing me over the edge, when she said something to me.

She told me that I was worth more than a dirty salad dressing bottle.

Sounds simple enough, but how often have we let guilt, pressure or what others think about us dictate our doing that one more thing that ultimately in the end was really less important than our health and well-being? I know I’m guilty of this. I naturally tend to be a people pleaser, and on top of that, I can be my own worst critic and put undue pressure on myself.

While I certainly believe in and normally practice recycling, reusing and generally not wasting, there are times where I need to make the simple choice to prioritize myself over an inanimate object.

It may sound stupid, but I see myself and many women striving or tormenting ourselves over things that may be important, but are much less important than us.

There are times when throwing something out or letting it go to waste is actually the right thing to do.

I may or may not have actually shed a few tears about my decision today, but if I did, it’s because I had come to the end of my emotional rope with just a few too many responsibilities weighing me down lately. Thankfully, life is actually going well right now, but there has just been a lot going on with many changes and the usual challenges. And I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and behind lately, especially since I lost several months of use of one hand when I cut my finger tendon.

So today was a day I needed to let myself off of the hook.

My dear husband came to my rescue by offering to take me out to dinner. We decided instead to stay at home and order some food to enjoy here, since I may have had puffy eyes and not enough energy to get myself looking decent enough for enjoying time in public. It’s rainy and very humid, so a bad hair day, too.

So I accepted his gracious offer and enjoyed sitting comfortably beside him thankfully enjoying our dinner made by someone else. We watched a couple of television shows and just chilled.

After dinner, I did a couple of things to get ready for another busy week. I took a frozen turkey out of my freezer (which needs desperately to be defrosted later this week), in hopes that I will be more successful in getting to cook that meat.

I now feel I may just have the strength to do this week better because I took some time to care for myself.

And I am worth it.

 

Here are some simple ways you can prioritize care for yourself:

  1. Stop and breathe or stretch.
  2. Take a walk or get some exercise.
  3. Enjoy a warm (or cold) drink.
  4. Let it go!
  5. Do something fun.
  6. Listen to music.
  7. Take a nap or go to bed early.
  8. Leave it to someone else.
  9. Do it later.
  10. Settle for  “good enough”.
  11. Spend some time with someone you love.
  12. Have some “alone” time.
  13. Take a warm bath or a cool shower.
  14. Simplify your responsibility.
  15. Ask for help.

 

Although these are just some quick ideas I came up with, I’ve written in more detail about ways we can care for ourselves when we’re feeling run-down or our emotions are frazzled. 

We all need to realize when enough is enough. Sometimes we may need more help or even the counsel or advice of a professional.

Most of the time we just need to cut ourselves some slack, and prioritize our own care.

Then we can have the renewed strength to be our best for God and others.

*****

 

 

 

 

looking up giant tree trunk

The Gift of Being Able to Depend

looking up giant tree trunk

 

This post contains my brief but deep thoughts today, and was produced to add to the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where the word for the week is depend.

*****

Another shooting on the news this morning.

And this trailing shortly behind natural disasters that have affected so many.

When will it ever end?

There is trouble in this world, to be sure. Every day brings more confirmation, whether it is broadcast from the news or I feel a discord deep inside my heart.

I almost didn’t write on this link-up. When I saw the word prompt, “depend”, I thought it was too similar to the last post I wrote for this link-up on the word, “support“.

But after listening to details of a new (and possibly the worst) shooting on the radio while driving today, my thoughts, emotions and determination turned back once again to my utter dependence on God.

I can’t do this life alone. I just can’t.

But neither could my relatives long ago who followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and left the Ukraine for North America. If they didn’t listen, I probably wouldn’t be here today.  My grandmother from that same family depended on God her whole life, from the painful loss of my grandparents’ six-year old son (my mother’s young brother), through an early death of my grandfather to a heart attack (yet still managing to live a full and joyful life in the midst of hardships), to a difficult, yet victorious end at the ripe age of 93.

On my father’s side of the family, my grandfather became blind as a young man. Despite the fear and frustration of having to depend on his wife for support (in a time where this was contrary to society), he embraced his condition in time and was one of the most happy (even silly!) people I’ve known. My grandmother became the provider for the family for many years. They both depended on their faith in a God in whom they chose to trust.

My mother, grandmother, father-in-law and my sister’s first husband all fought cancer. There are those in the family who are fighting today, but not without dependence on their faith to see them through each day. There are many different outcomes to their unique struggles, but what they had in common was they all chose to depend on God and trust him to use their circumstances for their ultimate good.

I have seen and felt joy, peace, blessing and extreme happiness, and have lived through pain, hurt, fears and disappointment.

And through it all, I am not ashamed to say that I depend on a faithful God who loves me, even through the hard times.

I admit my absolute need to lean on those around me whom he provides for my support, help and pleasure.

I desire to be one on whom others can depend.

I’m so thankful that often dependence is a happy thing, but grateful also that it is there when I simply cannot.

My life will continue to depend on more than just myself.

And that’s OK.

It is a gift.

*****

 

 

 

Oxtongue Lake bridge at sunset

Support is NOT For the Weak

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and the word prompt for the day is support.

*****

Oxtongue Lake bridge at sunset

 

As I ponder the word support, the first thing that comes to mind is how our culture teaches us to be independent. We are often told how strong we are and that we can find all we need deep inside us somewhere.

While I agree with this to a point, the longer I live, I realize my many weaknesses.

Yes, I believe I have been uniquely created with many gifts and strengths, but the reality is, I am only human. As much as we need a certain degree of autonomy to survive as a responsible adult in this world, I was not made to do life alone.

I need support.

When you think about it, support is really important. In so many aspects of life we recognize this, but why then is it so difficult to admit our need of others?

Think about large buildings and bridges.

They may be made of strong concrete, but inside there are iron supports that hold the structure together. This rebar is necessary for the concrete to be strong and durable.

The Bible speaks about our need to depend not just on ourselves.

 

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT

 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT

 

So rather than viewing my imperfections as making me weak, I choose to use them as opportunities to grow through leaning on, learning from and enjoying the comfort and strength of others. I’m also thankful for a God who gives me power and wisdom to help me through this demanding life.

I don’t need to walk alone to be strong. It takes a certain courage to recognize that we need to lean on someone else.

Support is not for the weak.

*****

 

 

 

Algonquin Park area lake dock

What I Learned This Summer

Where, oh where did the summer go?

Isn’t that the same question we usually ask at the end of August or when the calendar flips to September? It’s been good, I wish it had seemed longer, but I’m thankful all the same.

Here’s a list of some things I learned along the way, in no particular order. I’m pleased to link up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned list again this quarter. Enjoy!

 

13 Things I Learned (June to August 2017):

 

 

 1. I learned the definition of “saccharine”.

It’s meaning of relating to or resembling sugar,or being sickly sweet leads me to the obvious conclusion that this must be where the name of a common (but not healthy, in my opinion), non-sugar sweetener, “saccharin” comes from.

 

2. You can eat radish greens.

When I acquired some nice-looking fresh radishes, I set about checking to see if the greens (like so many others, such as beets), are edible. It turns out they most certainly are, and here are some nice recipes, too.

I remember my Grandmother teaching us as children that there were certain weeds, found right in our yard or “accidentally” in our vegetable garden, that were also good to eat.

One that I thought I remembered her telling me about is Pigweed, but when I look at the pictures online I learned that the one I was actually thinking of is called Lamb’s Quarters.

Maybe our ancestors were wise to realize that while ridding their gardens of unwanted weeds, they were actually harvesting something healthy to eat.

 

3. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to type with all the correct fingers of one hand when you’re missing use of just one finger in the other hand.

I found this out the hard way when I cut the tendon on my left index finger this spring. It was some time before I could use my finger to type on a keyboard, even after the bandage and splints came off. (I’m still in the recuperating process, more than four months later!)

less hustle more grace

You would think that one could simply use all 9 remaining healthy fingers to type, and simply not use the one that didn’t work, but apparently my brain thought otherwise. I could either type normally with my right hand and pick out the letters with the left, or I could simply type with just one finger (like a kid who doesn’t know how to type yet). I became quite adept at pecking out the letters surprisingly quickly, but was relieved when I got enough strength and flexibility to carefully use my index finger to type again.

The brain is an amazing (and scary) thing!

 

4. I tasted my first cucamelon.

Last summer and fall I had the privilege of working on a local farm for several months. I planted, dead-headed and watered plants early in the season, and ended with helping to run the farm-stand when the vegetables began to be ready to harvest and sell. This year, although I have another wonderful job that I love at the library, I still have a day to work at the farm stand, a job I find rather peaceful and pleasant.

My farm boss and friend gave me a handful of these little fruits to try (and share with my family). Cucamelons look like tiny watermelons, but taste like a cucumber. I thought they tasted rather “pickle-y”, but they were fun to try. I love learning about and tasting new foods!

 

5. While visiting my sister this summer, she taught me the best method to keep berries fresh the longest.

We went strawberry picking and used this method, which she had learned and tried with great success. Using white vinegar to clean the berries and storing them carefully lined between layers of paper towels really does help to keep fresh berries for much longer than I had ever seen. Give it a try!

 

6. While the most calls are made on Mother’s Day, the most collect calls are made on Father’s Day.

While writing a short post awhile back, I learned this interesting fact. Do you remember, especially before cell phones, when collect calls were more prevalent? I’m sure I’m dating myself, but it was fun to revisit this method of communication.

It’s interesting to note that apparently people consider it important to take care of mom on her special day, but that they still rely on good old dad when it comes to needing assistance.

 

7. I heard a good tip for for making zucchini lasagna less watery.

I’m not quite sure where she learned this tip, but my sister told me that you can remove the excess liquid in your zucchini lasagna with a turkey baster, reduce it, and use the resulting thickened liquid it as a yummy lasagna sauce.

I may just try it!

 

8. (Apparently) Costco is a great place to work.

We recently joined Costco in order to purchase my new hearing aides. It’s one of those wholesale clubs where you can buy quality items at a good price, as well as many food and grocery items usually in bulk.

As a side note (and I’m not getting any commissions for this), it was a blessing to find that Costco offers great quality hearing aides at a fraction of the cost of most other vendors. (I’ve had a slight hearing loss since about second grade, and have worn hearing aides for close to fifteen years now. )

So we purchased our membership and drove a little farther than usual to take advantage of this deal.

As I was looking at some information about the store, I learned that Costco seems to be a great place to work! They appear to have figured out that if you treat (and pay) your employees well, it’s more profitable in the long run.

It’s just one more reason I’m happy to support this business.

 

9. Forelle pears are beautiful and tasty!

At one of our trips to the above mentioned warehouse store (see #8), we purchased some pears I had never heard of before. It turns out Forelles are a new favorite of mine, with their crisp but sweet flavor. I’m thinking they are more rare (and the following article supports this), as I’ve never seen them before or since.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for this delicious variety in the future!

 

10. I learned about the importance of “Whitespace”.

For many years now, my church has had the privilege of being a host site for a well-known leadership conference. When we are able to participate, we enjoy hearing from many amazing and wise leaders from many walks of life speaking on a variety of helpful subjects.

One of the seminars that impacted me the most was Juliet Funt’s teaching on Whitespace. I truly believe that this idea, along with so many others about “leadership”, could positively impact not only our workplaces and businesses, but our churches, homes, and families as well.

It shouldn’t be surprising that creating space in which to slow down and process information will cause us to be more creative and productive.

 

 

11. You can freeze string beans (and many other veggies) WITHOUT blanching first.

Did you know that you can freeze string beans without blanching first?

When I was growing up on two acres my family grew a large vegetable garden. Consequently, my mother filled a huge chest freezer with the products of our labours, to be enjoyed all year long. Corn, beans, beets, tomatoes, and strawberries were just a few of the things we enjoyed, even through the winters.

Back in the day as I recall, before freezing, produce had to be blanched. I was taught it was a necessary step, lightly cooking the vegetables in boiling water before putting them in the freezer.

As an adult, I keep learning that many of the vegetables I thought needed to be blanched first can certainly be frozen as is, without blanching!

Here’s a helpful post to fill you in on all the details of blanching string beans.

Anything that can save us valuable time and energy and still produce a safe and healthy product is a win-win in my books!

 

12. I clarified why I’m stuck somewhere between metric and Imperial systems.

I grew up with my family in Ontario, Canada, and consequently, at some point was caught up the the transition from the older Imperial system of measurement to that of the metric system. When I became an adult, I went across the border to attend bible college in New York state. There I met and married my American husband, and reside with him and our sons in New England, where he grew up.

I’ve had to use both metric and Imperial over my lifetime, and I find myself feeling confused and not completely on top of either system.

I remember learning metric in school and can easily work with this system on paper, but think mostly in terms of old Imperial measurements when it comes to lengths and distances. I’ve driven in both countries, so am familiar with both kilometers and miles, but understand distances in miles better. As for temperatures, apart from the more obvious freezing point (0 degrees Celsius), and boiling point (100 degrees Celsius) of water, in day to day life I only recognize temperatures in Fahrenheit. I have been told, but never remember the corresponding temperatures in Celsius.

So why do I find myself in such a quandary?

I recently looked up exactly when Canada made this change from one system to another, and low and behold, it all happened to me from the ages of about five to ten or eleven years old! 

No wonder I am so confused! Right through much of my formative years, I was in the middle of a giant, country-wide transition!

I’m not sure if it makes my reality any better, but at least I know I have a reason for knowing bits and pieces of each system, and being a master of neither.

 

13. I really NEED quiet times of peace, especially in nature.

I’ve always loved spending time outdoors and being in nature.

I grew up with a big, two-acre yard in the countryside, with farms and space around me. I also had a father who was a teacher and a mother who worked at home for most of my childhood, and because of this, we were able to do so much in the summer, including a long camping vacation (or sometimes more than one!).

As a married adult, my husband and I, and subsequently our family have always valued and loved most our quiet vacations spent in nature. We love being near or on water, and my favorite places are in what I would affectionately call, “cottage country” (or “up north”), where one can drive for miles through areas of trees and lakes.

One of my most favourite places on the planet (if not the most favourite!), is a large provincial park in northern Ontario known as Algonquin. I grew up going to this area for many of our vacations, then brought my husband there and eventually our kids. It’s a bit of a drive, but we love to spend vacation time there as often as life allows, often being joined by my parents and sometimes my sister and her family.

Even when home, I find that a simple hike in the woods, sitting by or boating on a quiet lake, or even enjoying the ambiance of a campfire are some of my favorite past-times. But not only that; I’m recognizing more and more that these types of activities bring life to my soul.

I cannot accurately describe the feeling I get when I am able to soak up the peace and beauty that nature provides. Something within me calms, rejuvenates, and releases a contented sigh.

On the way home from our early vacation to a cottage in Algonquin this summer, I was trying to express to my husband how much I’m realizing that I actually need these peaceful and life-giving experiences.

I want to intentionally include them more often, even daily in little ways. Things like taking the time to sit outside in the sun, walking peacefully through falling snow, or even sitting in my kitchen with a hot beverage in hand, gazing out of my window can bring needed revitalization in the midst of everyday life.

I’m so thankful for the blessing of God’s creation and times of peace and solitude.

 

Cottage neighbour's boat near Algonquin

 

Adirondack chairs at lakeside campfire

 

peaceful evening boat ride

 

Colourful evening skies on Oxtongue Lake

 

Wilderness lake near Algonquin

 

Flower on the water taken from canoe

 

fox near Algonquin road

 

firepit at Oxtongue Lake cottage

 

Morning quiet time view from cottage dock on Oxtongue Lake

 

*****

I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve learned this summer. Perhaps you learned a little something new or even something about yourself!

 

tree branches in silhouette with sun and sky

To Speak or Not to Speak …

tree branches in silhouette with sun and sky

… That is the question. 

I’ve always liked to talk…a lot.

But I’ve also needed to learn along the way to talk less, or when it is appropriate to hold my tongue.

There are many Bible verses about our speech. It is clear that too much talking, or not speaking in an encouraging and positive way is damaging both to ourselves and others.

Consider James 3.

I also tend to be a bit “shy” when I’m in the presence of those I’m not as close to or don’t know as well. So while I may talk a blue streak in a group I’m comfortable with, or even speak in front of a crowd, I am naturally repelled by making others feel uncomfortable.

In short, I care too much what others think about me. So there are times I should have spoken up but chose to be quiet.

The tongue is a powerful little tool.

It can drive the course of one’s day or even one’s life.

It strongly affects our own thoughts and actions and is keenly felt by those around us.

Words spoken in anger, frustration, fear or haste can be damaging, while words spoken with love, wisdom, thought and guidance can bring life.

 

“Those who control their tongue will have a long life;
    opening your mouth can ruin everything.” – Proverbs 13:3, NLT

Gentle words are a tree of life;
    a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4, NLT

 

It may not come naturally, but my goal is to speak less, think more before I speak, and be more purposeful about how and when and what I speak.

I want my words to be a positive force in my own life and all those I come into contact with.

*****

Today’s post has been written for the Five Minute Friday link-up word of the day, speak.