courageous mug with frothy hot drink

A Post Dedicated to My Mom

courageous mug with frothy hot drink

This is a special day, as I write and share the 100th post of my blog, Simply Flourishing Home!!!

My blog has taken a “back seat” lately, mainly because of injuring my finger, making it difficult and time-consuming to type. With my 100th post coming up I had wished to make it significant, but have been disappointed to honestly just not have it in me physically and emotionally to come up with something spectacular.

Often when we are in a difficult or challenging place, the best option becomes to just “do the next right thing”. So when I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday word prompt, I decided to do just that.

With this background, I’d like to dedicate this, my 100th blog post, to my Mom. ♥

I can’t think of a more deserving tribute on this Mother’s Day, 2017.

*****

Sometimes I find it difficult to figure out what sentiment to write on a greeting card, especially for someone as significant, appreciated and loved as my mother. After fifty years, I often hesitate, struggling to come up with a better, new or more meaningful way to say what’s in my heart. But words are often inadequate.

For today’s Five Minute Friday post (which will undoubtedly push the five-minute “limit” with my finger still recuperating from surgery), I’d like to take some time to tell you, Mom, some of the things that have made you a special mother to me over all of these years.

It all started on June 14, 1966; well, actually let’s not forget all of those exciting, yet tiring and overwhelming months of pregnancy, as well. I don’t even know many details about how that was for you, but I know it takes a great deal of sacrifice. Neither did I realize just how hard delivering a baby could be (as expressed in my first words to you after giving birth to my first son, “I owe you, Mom!”)

As a child I have so many fond memories. Although hours of details and moments seem shrouded by the forgetfulness of my many years, the ones that are clear to me are mostly wonderful.

I remember enjoying growing up on two country acres and all of the fun and learning that growing a large garden and mowing big fields brings. I appreciate being taught important skills, often just by watching you, but also being given the freedom to run and play and enjoy my long childhood. I remember the joys of planting, harvesting and eating fresh vegetables and scrumptious strawberries, and appreciate all of the work you did to preserve much summer goodness to enjoy all winter from our big chest freezer.

I appreciate the gift of having you home with myself and Rebecca (when she came along six years later), a gift that is becoming more increasingly rare in our modern culture.

Even when we were old enough to get ready for school on our own, you would get up and leave us some breakfast food, in order to make our busy morning run more smoothly. It also reminded us that you cared.

Our family vacations in the long summer days make up a large part of my childhood memories.

We were blessed to enjoy more time together as a family with Dad being an experienced teacher, and I appreciate all of the work you did to make those trips happen. Even while we sometimes helped out on vacation (and probably should have more than we did), I thank you for taking extra responsibilities on yourself so that we girls could enjoy freedom and the wonders of nature while you prepared many of our meals, or just one more swim with dad while you packed up most of our camp to leave for home.

I thank you, Mom, not only for you and Dad taking us to church all of our lives, but for modeling what it means to live authentic, though imperfect, Christian lives. I appreciate all of the times when you (and often Dad) calmed my fears and helped me to sort through my own conflicting emotions and thoughts in a loving way.

Thank-you for every mess you cleaned up, every tear you wiped, all of the “undesirable” things a mother just does every single day.

Another huge part of my favorite childhood memories was how we celebrated special times and holidays, but especially Christmas.  I’m glad that you enjoyed it, but I know you did so much work to make these family memories even more special.  The elaborate but inexpensive creative decorations, gifts, and treats made the season simply magical. I’m so happy to be able to pass on a part of these loving traditions to my own family.

I love your creativity that you shared with your family, through hand-sewn clothes, homemade Christmas decorations, and cards you made for us at Valentine’s Day.

I am so grateful that you shared your love of music with me and taught me how to sing harmony.  I love how you and Dad took us to “Jesus festivals” to hear the early artists of Christian rock music, and how as seniors, to this day, you still love and appreciate quality, “upbeat” music, such as the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Although it was hard on both of us (and eventually we decided I should take a break, then learn from another teacher), I appreciate your sharing your knowledge of how to play the piano with me, and enjoyed hearing you play for enjoyment yourself.

Another thing I appreciate is how I was made to feel special and important, because my feelings always mattered.

One such occasion was the morning when your father, my grandfather, passed away. Even as you were grieving your own loss and watching the pain of your own mother, you and Dad let me know that it was OK to be disappointed to not be leaving that morning as planned on our family vacation.

Another time was years later when I was a young adult. As I expressed feelings of guilt over something seemingly insignificant really bothering me when you were suffering with the sickness and painful treatment of cancer, you responded yet again in such a caring, “motherly” way. I’ll never forget your letting me know that just because my concern was “less serious” than cancer did not make it any less real to me, and that it was OK for me to hurt even when you were suffering so greatly.

You demonstrated courage and faith as you passed through the difficult months (and years) of cancer and how it affects all of one’s life.

I love how when my teenage friends came to our home, many times they would “borrow” your ear to share something that you made them feel comfortable enough to share, even though they were a guest. I have so many memories of the time, care and sacrifice that you and Dad made in ministering to youth and young adults, teaching Rebecca and I to love God, the church, his people and his work throughout our lives.

Another special little “gift” to me were the times you simply washed my long hair in the kitchen sink (although it’s slightly embarrassing to admit my teenage laziness for some reason about this). I was perfectly capable of doing it myself, but it made me feel loved and “spoiled” (in a good way). I don’t think it has hindered my growth in any way, but it helps me to remember a practical way that you showed how much you cared for me.

You continue to be a “mom” to so many other individuals whom God has brought into your life, even while your children live far away.

Since I’ve “grown up” (do we ever really?), married, and had children, you have still been a loving, helpful and supportive mom for all of these years, and for that I still thank you.

You have often continued to calm my fears, helped me to work through my adult struggles, prayed endlessly for me and my husband and sons, and helped to create so many more special memories.

We are grateful for the added blessing of sharing these memories with your grandsons, our own family.

Mom, I’ve only touched on a small percentage of my thoughts and memories for which I wish to express appreciation and gratitude, but I hope that it brings you just some of the blessing you deserve today.

So Mom, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

I know that you will never stop being a mother, my mother, and I only pray that God gives me the strength, courage and wisdom to be the mother to my sons, and to all those God brings into my life, that you have been to me.

I love you. ♥

*****

 

less is more with injured finger tendon

Empty

less is more with injured finger tendon

So this is what happened on a Friday afternoon almost two weeks ago…..

I cut my index finger right at the joint while attempting to cut some watermelon with my sharp knife. After a stressful trip and several hours at the ER, I came home with a small splint, three stitches, and orders to return first thing Monday morning for surgery to repair my severed tendon.

I admit I am not good with medical procedures and emergencies.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a tendency to feel faint or go into mild shock when dealing with an injury. I don’t like this about myself, have worked and prayed my way through many situations, and have grown much, I think, but it still seems to be a weakness I must continue to deal with.

What makes it worse, is that I know that this is just a minor situation compared to what others have dealt with.

There are much more serious medical conditions and diseases (such as my friends and family members who have gone or are going through cancer), and many people I know have suffered great losses and pain of a more serious nature.

I have repeatedly wondered why I seem so weak.

I’ve come up feeling rather empty.

And this is the word prompt from last week for Five Minute Friday. I’m finally feeling enough strength today to write (typing with one hand), and link up with some wonderful fellow bloggers, squeaking in just under the wire before this weak’s new prompt.

I’ve been thinking about this all week, and really wanted to write.

Last weekend all over the world, Christians celebrated Easter. We remembered the life, suffering and death of God’s only Son, and rejoiced together in his victorious resurrection. (If you are not a believer, these amazing claims at least bear some serious contemplation.)

And the victory of Christ can help me in my weakness.

I know that in my brokenness, Christ can become strong in me.

Because the grave is also empty, I can find healing for both my body and my soul. Even my thoughts and fickle emotions can learn to be at peace.

I guess it’s not so bad to feel empty.

 

“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 12:8b-10

 

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

 

He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed. – 1 Peter 2:24

*****

 

 

 

One God and Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus

Enough Already

One God and Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus

 

Today’s post will be linked up with my friends over at Five Minute Friday, where different authors and bloggers all join together to write their five-minute’s-worth of thoughts on a common theme. Today’s prompt is “enough“.

*****

This morning I awoke to sun. Shiny, bright and inviting; after a week of cold rain and clouds, it brought immediate help to my weary bones and heart.

I have no major complaints; I am thankful to say that life is not too difficult right now.

But some days it’s still a struggle for all of us.

I clicked on Facebook for a few minutes and saw that my dear sister posted a photo of the snow covering they awoke to today. Then another faraway friend stated the same…..the roads were worse than ever, and the snow-clearing machinery may have already been put away.

So my first thoughts when I saw the prompt for today’s writing was, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

I know there are so much deeper and meaningful things about which to write, but that’s where I was at first.

I proceeded to get my (phone) camera and try to capture photos of the beauty around me, in order to share online with my weather-weary friends.

Then a little treat: a fluffy little bird, bathing happily in my birdbath, with other birds flitting about. I immediately started a rough video and shared that instead.

Next, I proceeded to start my quiet time. I looked at my scripture of the day, 1 Timothy 2:5-6,

For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.”

I chose a new devotional (from YouVersion), which led me to one which included music and an Easter theme.

 

Here is the song that was written about today:

 

 

So, in the end, I am writing about something more serious.

Something I believe is so important, so vital to the heart, soul and lives of myself and those around me.

The Church is already in the season of Lent, and will soon be sharing in many celebrations of Easter, the culmination of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

It bears some serious thought, whether you are a believer or not.

I remember an Easter sermon given by my former pastor a few years back, in which he showed us a diagram, a graph sort of image that represented what happened to the world at the time when Christians claim that Jesus died and rose again.

No matter what you think about it, something happened.

The world was definitely changed.

People have testified not only to walking and speaking with him in person after his death, but for thousands of years, men and women have claimed that their lives have been changed forever by their acceptance of that single, horrible, then victorious gift.

We cannot ignore the sacrifice nor the celebration.

And it is enough, already.

*****

 

 

Inspirational mugs

Choose What Defines You

It’s Five Minute Friday time, and the prompt for this week is, “define”. Join me as we consider this word today.

*****

Inspirational mugs

 

What defines me?

According to Dictionary.com, two meanings for the word, “define” are:

“to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe”,

and

“to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of”

We can be defined by a lot of different things. Events, circumstances, feelings, opinions all affect how I define my life.

These self-definitions help describe who we are and who we want to be. How we define ourselves can also set up boundaries (both positive and negative) that will be difficult to cross.

 

I can live in the past … and never move forward or plan and change my life for the better.

I can live for the future … and forget the formative events and people who have served to make me who I am today.

I can listen to the words of those around me, both positive and negative … and forget the words of the One who made me.

I can rely on my fickle emotions … and refuse to believe the truth beyond what I can feel.

I can base my value on what I do, how much I achieve or produce, what I own, how much money I have, how talented I am, the grades and recognition I may or may not receive, and what others think (or what I think they think) about me … all the while ignoring the truth which is often disguised by the way things look on the surface.

Some folks even prefer to define themselves by their difficult circumstances … because they don’t know anything else and are afraid to change.

 

We have a choice about what defines us. 

 

I’ll never forget a little story I read many years ago in a Readers’ Digest article.

It was about two men who were brothers of an alcoholic father. One went on to be a responsible adult with a good job and family. The other made nothing of himself and may have become an alcoholic himself.

When asked about why they turned out the way they did, each man had the same answer:

 

What would you expect with a father like mine?”

It’s not always easy, but we always have a choice.

I chose to listen to the truth.

I can find the truth when I believe the the good words of those who care about me.

I can find the best truth when I believe the words of a God who not only made me, but designed me for a beautiful and unique purpose.

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

 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!

– Psalm 139:13-18a, NLT

You can choose what defines you.

Choose to believe, and act upon … the truth.

*****

 

 

 

 

friends on Facebook

Friend Me

This post has been written to add to the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the prompt for the day is, “friend”.

*****

friends on Facebook

 

Friend me.”

This is a phrase that would have made a lot less sense when I was a little girl.

Social media was not a thing; in fact, I still remember the first computers (that weren’t the size of a room, and that “regular” people could own in their homes). Yes, I may be dating myself, but that’s OK.

But it’s a common request these days, connecting us to those we know on Facebook and other social media.

I am fairly careful who I friend. It’s good to be safe online and in real life and use godly caution.

But let’s not live in so much fear that we shut real people out.

I know that online relationships and acquaintances can never take the place of spending time with flesh and blood people, but I do find it engaging and a wonderful way to keep up with those I do know and love but can’t always be with due to miles or time constraints.

There are several wonderful ladies I’m getting to know only online. I have never met them in person, but if I walked into a room and they were there, I would give them hugs.

I believe that real friendships can be made, renewed or rekindled, or just maintained partly by interacting online. I even wrote a whole blog post on that premise.

But let’s not forget to get off of our technology and out into the real world.

Let’s make time to get together with those we love and those we wish to know better.

Don’t just pass by those people with whom you go to church, those neighbors you wish you knew better, or the colleagues you see at work, without touching them somehow.

Be the person who is not afraid to smile at a stranger, stop to help a passerby, or even offer a word of encouragement or friendship to those we meet.

Let’s cherish the ones we love and not take these moments for granted.

Because the hearts of everyone around us are saying, “friend me“.

And my heart needs to be a friend, too.

*****

 

 

 

snow boots on sidewalk with wet snow

How I Turned a Miserable Shoveling Experience into Worship

snow boots on sidewalk with wet snow

Perhaps this should more accurately be called, “How We Shoveled Heavy, Wet, Sloppy, Back-Breaking Snow, and Still Managed to Be Thankful”, or something like, “How to Be Thankful in All Circumstances, Even When Your Back Aches and You’re Soaked to the Skin.”

I’m not even sure I can claim that I was entirely thankful, or that I felt like worshiping out there, but I certainly gave it a good try.

It all started when after a couple of weeks of almost spring-like weather and all of our snow had melted, we got the weather prediction that a big snowstorm was moving in. Used to such teasing in New England, we bucked up and faced it like men (and a strong woman).

As the day drew nearer, we kept checking in on our weather apps to check the prediction updates.

The good news: almost a definite snow day (which means no school or sometimes work, up here in the north).

The bad news: around 8-14 inches of snow, with the possibility of up to 2 feet in some areas.

The night before we stayed up a little later than normal, knowing that there would be no school or work to go to, and awoke after sleeping in to nothing much happening outside.

But then it started, slowly at first, but increasing as the day went on.

And then the really bad news: the weather report stated that it would probably change over to rain or sleet at some point in the afternoon. So we knew we could not wait for every last flake to fall before we went out and braved the storm to begin our snow removal.

As nice as it is to not be too cold outside, this is not always beneficial in a snowstorm. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the worst possible outcomes (topped only by dangerously cold weather or icy conditions, or a full-blown blizzard).

By the time we all got out there, about six inches of snow had fallen, but the falling precipitation was already transformed into all rain. which means not only were we going to get wet, but the snow would be unbearably heavy. And as much as I like a good workout, there is no good way to shovel heavy, wet snow without straining one’s back.

Yet, braving the elements, we put in our time and hard work, and gradually removed the offending snow.

my men shoveling heavy, wet snow

Two of my men hard at work, shoveling heavy, wet snow. (The other is out there somewhere, too.)

Shortly after I had been working, I began to realize that my otherwise warm down coat and thick jeans were beginning to soak through.

Now if you’ve ever been soaked through to the skin in your clothes, you know this is at best a miserable feeling. But try that in close-to-freezing temps and you’ve got yourself a pretty good reason to complain.

As much as it’s OK to vent a little, before long I realized my attitude had degraded into a miserable, complaining mess, not unlike the scene around me. I was feeling like there was nothing for which to be thankful.

And then I realized I had to do something about it.

So I pushed myself to start naming things I am thankful for.

I started with the fact that I am healthy and strong enough to do this work.

Next, I listed people I know and love (I named a bunch of them), and thanked God for them. Then I went on to give thanks for my cars and home, and other random blessings. Eventually with every scoop of slushy snow, I named something else for which I could express gratitude. I think I even named every delicious ice-cream flavor I could think of with each slushy scoop, before I decided to change over to prayer.

I prayed for several people I know, and it made the work bearable.

shoveled steps with wet snow

I won’t lie to you and tell you that I felt wonderful or had any divine revelations during the course of the afternoon, because I didn’t.

I still felt crummy and wet, with rain water now dripping down my head and back, and parts of my legs feeling thoroughly chilled. The only other time I remember being this wet was when I was at a high school camp out with my Inter-School Christian Fellowship group. It was March, and we had decided to have a water fight which soaked our heavy coats and all the way through to our underwear. This was memorably uncomfortable, as the March evenings in Ontario are still relatively cold.

But back to today.

I was able to change my attitude with an act of my will, by choosing to be thankful.

 

Here are 3 things to reflect on when you are tempted to complain:

  1. Start being grateful for anything and everything you can think of.
  2. Recognize that you’ve probably been through more difficult circumstances and survived, and that there are others around you with more concerning problems right now.
  3. Turn your thoughts from inward belly-gazing, to a prayer for those around you.

 

I am tired and sore, and I’m sure my back will ache some tomorrow, but at least I recognize how much I really have for which to be grateful.

I know of so many around me going through some really hard times. There are those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and many who are struggling financially. There are acquaintances struggling with their self-image and friends who are out of work. We have family members who are suffering with physical ailments that can only be healed by a touch from God. So many I know are hurting.

We’ve gone through some hard times ourselves, but through it all, God has been faithful.

my soaking wet, smiling face

My soaking wet, but smiling face.

I’m thankful today that even thought life is far from perfect, it’s pretty good right now. We are strong and healthy and together as a family.

We have a nice, warm home and cars that run well, clothes on our backs, and good food to eat.

We are surrounded by family and friends who love and support us, a church in which we can both use our gifts to minister to others and receive blessings ourselves, and jobs that are mostly pleasant and provide for our financial needs.

With our wet clothes either hanging (and dripping) downstairs or drying in a warm dryer, at least we’re warm and cozy again. There’s homemade soup to heat up for supper, and Caramel Turtle brownie mix that beckons me to bake soon.

coats and clothes hanging to dry in basement

Coats and clothes hanging to drip dry in our basement.

As I reflect on all of my blessings, I realize that I really have a lot.

With God’s help, I can count it all joy, both in difficult times and in those wearisome or mundane times in the middle.

I can chose to be thankful in every situation.

I am learning to make all of my life, even those miserable experiences, a place of worship.

*****

It just dawned on me, shortly after posting this as I made our supper, that the worship song we sang on Sunday is totally appropriate. I’ve had the words of the chorus going through my head all week,

 

Your praise will ever be on my lips…

 

I guess maybe my heart was listening, even though I was unaware.

 

*****

In what difficult or challenging circumstances do you currently find yourself in? What helps you to change a negative attitude into one of thanksgiving or worship? For what can you be grateful today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

girl jumping off rocks

Abandon

girl jumping off rocks

 

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday.

*****

The word for today’s writing is “abandon”, and my first thoughts are of a negative nature; pictures I’ve seen of abandoned animals, or worse yet, stories of neglected and unloved children come to mind.

When I read the definitions, abandon includes the following:

  • to cease to support or look after
  • leave without intending to return
  • give up completely (a practice or a course of action)
  • allow oneself to indulge,
  • complete lack of inhibition or restraint (noun)

When I think about my life, there are many things that should definitely be abandoned. Some of them may feel like new fears or feelings, but many more are things I’ve carried with me for my whole life.

I desire to give up fears and doubts, negative thinking and self-talk, complaining, pride and striving in my own strength, holding onto hurts, making poor decisions based on feelings, and other emotions, thought patterns and actions that do not bring life.

As a Christian, my decision to follow Christ includes the abandonment of many things; but not for my harm or lack of enjoyment. God asks me to give up those things that would hurt me or someone else, or hinder me from personal growth. He asks me to prioritize following him and doing those things that would give him glory.

The verse that came up in my daily devotional was Colossians 4:2,

 

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

 

When we devote ourselves to those things that truly matter and follow the loving plan of the One who created us, it will bring life and peace. We will not long for the things we’ve chosen to abandon, because they don’t bring real fulfillment.

One of the worship songs I’m practicing for Sunday morning is called Fully Devoted.

The chorus speaks of being fully devoted to and following after the One who gave his life for me. The song reminds me to step out in faith without fear, and share the wonderful gift of God’s love with the world.

 

“Fully devoted we follow after

The one who gave it all

Christ alone be praised

No matter what it takes for the glory of your name

Christ alone be praised

We are stepping out in faith so the world will know your name

Christ along be praised”

 

You may listen to the whole song here:

 

I wish to abandon the things that only bring temporary satisfaction and don’t promote life and growth. I desire to embrace all that God has for me, and to share his good gifts with those around me.

Only when I abandon the things I do not need will I have room in my heart and life for the things that are truly good.

And that’s a sacrifice worth making.

*****

 

 

 

 

blue winter sky with clouds and tree branches

What I Learned this Winter – December 2016 to February 2017

blue winter sky with clouds and tree branches

It’s been some time since I’ve shared a “What I’ve Learned” post. In fact, looking back caused me to recall that even the last post I shared ended up being a combination of two months, in 11 Things I Learned in October & November 2016.

I love this habit, but I guess life got away from me a bit. It started with the wonderful but busy Christmas season, then life forged full-force into a busy January, and lagged through much of February. It feels a bit like a “fail”, but then I realized that maybe Emily P. Freeman (who is graciously hosting this link-up), was wise in switching from monthly to quarterly (or seasonal, if you will), posts.

So rather than worry about not posting for the past three months, I will rather take this as an indicator that posting what we learned every three months is a better practice for me, at least for this time in my life.

I’m privileged to join today in Emily’s seasonal “What We Learned” link-up, along with many other wonderful bloggers and writers.

So here are some things I’ve learned in the past three months, in no particular order. I hope you enjoy my list, find it inspiring, or perhaps learn something new yourself.

*****

What I Learned this Winter (December 2016-February 2017):

 

1.   Living near a well-known Christmas lights display is cool but has it’s drawbacks.

We  have a well-known and much-loved seasonal light display right down the street. LaSalette Shrine boasts what is probably one of the most popular light displays in New England. Many people come to visit each year; it is a tradition for families from far and wide.

Well, the downside is that during peak visiting times (such as Friday and Saturday evenings), there is often a line of cars stretching several miles down the street, blocking not only our street, but all of the “side” streets, as well. We should know. Both my husband and I have been stuck trying to get home at just the wrong time, and have sat in these lines waiting to simply get to our house.

It is worth seeing and we usually make a visit at some point during each Christmas season. It’s a place of beauty and peace, and one that is based on the true story of Christmas.

I guess that’s something worth waiting for.

 

2. Apparently, when people sing in a group, their heart-rates synchronize!

According to this online academic publisher, “Choir singing is known to promote wellbeing.” But even more interesting and amazing is their statement that, “Unison singing of regular song structures makes the hearts of the singers accelerate and decelerate simultaneously.”

If you love to sing in a group, there are at least two more reasons to keep on singing!

 

3.  Star Shower lights are simple and dramatic!

I really enjoy outdoor Christmas lights. I love how they not only celebrate my favorite holiday, but brighten the otherwise dark and barren winter season.

We have tried to decorate our home and yard with at least some lights almost every Christmas season. Some of my favorite displays involved my poor husband climbing a really tall ladder and stringing up icicle lights from our eves at the peak of our roof. As pretty as it looked, it was a lot of scary work out in the cold.

We’ve settled for less extravagant displays on the ground most years, but regardless, putting up and taking down the lights has never been our favorite part of our Christmas celebration.

Well, low and behold, this year I decided to take advantage of a coupon and a good deal and order some laser lights online. I sifted through all of the brands and gadgets and settled on one of the more basic models (and the first one I had seen and knew that I liked in real life). I purchased the Star Shower Motion Laser Lights Star Projector, and was excited when my package arrived.

What had me even more excited, though, was how simple it was to learn and set up, and what a dramatic presentation of starlight on our house and high tree branches! It is one of the prettiest light displays we’ve had, yet so simple. I’m sold!

 

laser lights on house in snow

Star Shower

4. Working Saturdays isn’t so bad most of the time.

I really like my latest job, and am so thankful for this position. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and is proving to be a good fit for me, as I had hoped. I also really like my co-workers and find the team spirit supportive and encouraging.

This is the first job I’ve had in years for which working Saturdays is the norm. For most of the year, I work part of each Saturday, unlike most of my past jobs.

This schedule has been working out fine, except when we started to plan one of our annual Christmas family get-togethers this past December.  My husband and I talked about and started planning our usual Saturday morning family brunch for several days before it dawned on me that I had to work that day!

Fortunately, we hadn’t yet told everyone the date, so we were able to find a suitable time for everyone to come and it all worked out just fine. Sometimes it’s hard to start thinking outside the box.

 

5. I now (think that I) know the difference between “roast” and “bake”.

I can’t remember how this came up, but something prompted me to research the difference between “roast” and ” bake”.

The dictionary definitions are very similar (see “roast” and “bake”), but there seem to be some differences as well.

It seems that most people agree that both roasting and baking are cooking methods employing dry heat. The most popular consensus is that the difference has more to do with the structure of the food. While roasting is usually used to define cooking (either over an open fire or in an oven) a food that already has a solid structure, baking most often refers to cooking foods in an oven to change their structure. We know that we bake cakes, cookies, and casseroles, but we can roast a chicken or vegetables. This article does a pretty decent job of describing the difference.

I will admit, though, upon further reading, the issue is still up for debate. You can check out some different viewpoints on this page, and decide for yourself.

 

 

6. There is an ancient art form which makes something beautiful out of broken pottery.

A little while ago, my husband alerted me to an interesting an inspiring Japanese art form that he had heard or read about. It immediately grabbed my attention and has stuck in my mind.

A paragraph from this article explains it best:

Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) or kintsukuroi (“golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates the artifact’s unique history by emphasizing the fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing the artifact with new life.Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century, making it more than 500 years old. It is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for finding beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted.

I was so inspired by this craft that I wrote a blog post about it, because I think it is a perfect illustration for our lives. You can read more about my thoughts in my post entitled, Make Something Beautiful Of Your Brokenness. I hope this idea touches and stays with you as well.

 

7. I am learning how to use a bullet journal, and loving it!

Have you ever heard of a bullet journal? It seems to be an exceptionally popular habit right now, but I think this may be more than just a fad for me.

The idea of a bullet journal was invented by a digital product designer named Ryder Carroll. There’s a lot of good information to learn about what it is and how to do it on his website. You may check it out by watching the following video.

It’s basically a simple method for your planner that uses short, bullet points in the journal or notebook of your choice, and can be designed to suit your personality, learning/working method, needs and desires. Although the inventor’s method remains more basic, even spartan, in it’s approach, others have adapted his idea to incorporate their more artsy designs and creative ideas in their bullet journals.

After going through the information on the original Bullet Journal website, I quickly found and watched several videos from Carrie Crista (you can watch one of her videos about how to start out, here),  and Boho Berry (enjoy her journal flip-through, here). Each of these young women will give you tips and ideas based on their more artistic approach to bullet journalling.

While I love the ideas of beautiful and colorful pages, and will incorporate some of my own creativity in my bullet journal, I plan to attempt to keep it simple (as suggested in this wonderful, comprehensive post by Kendra of the Lazy Genius Collective), so that this system will remain enjoyable and really work for me. 🙂

 

8. Decorative Washi tape is my favorite new craft discovery.

Have you tried washi tape yet? In starting my bullet journal (see point #7 above), I noticed that some people (OK, probably mostly women), use washi tape to decorate their journals. It can also be used as a pretty way to attach printed sheets into a journal and to cover up mistakes (by either taping the decorative tape over the mistake, taping two pages together, or taping a new sheet over a mistake page). I browsed the many options at Amazon and read the reviews and chose this set to try first. Not only is washi tape beautiful and colorful, but it is so easy to work with! It is super fun and forgiving. What more could a crafty lady want???

 

what I learned

 

what I learned winter

9. I forgot how NOT FUN it is to experience vertigo!

Several years ago I came down with a pretty nasty case of vertigo. (I’m not sure if one can “come down with” vertigo, but that’s kind of what happened.) Without going into too much detail, let me just say that it was a really hard experience.

At first I didn’t know what it was or what to do about it.  I had some medical insurance issues when I finally did try to get to a doctor, ended up one night in the ER desperately trying to get some help, and FINALLY…..I got to my wonderful ENT doctor who diagnosed me correctly and promptly sent me to the best physical therapist on the planet.

I’m sure I was just a tad prejudiced right at that moment, but regardless, she was kind and knowledgeable, and best of all, she specialized in the type of issues I was dealing with (vertigo and balance issues). After some weeks of physical therapy (by this point the vertigo that had not been dealt with was creating other problems), and treatment for my type of vertigo, she also taught me what I needed to know to be able to treat myself at home.

I’ve heard that many people (I think it’s mostly women), who have vertigo do not get the help they need. They may not have professionals who know about the treatments or simply don’t go to the right place for help.

I am SO THANKFUL that I got to exactly the right person to give me the help I needed!

I’ve had some mild cases of vertigo since that time and my home treatments completely did the trick. Last week, however, I awoke one morning with a more-than-mild case of it, and after doing too rounds of treatments, I’m still not back to normal. I’m thankful to be much better, but it just reminded me of how debilitating this condition can be.

I certainly cannot diagnose vertigo for someone else, but if you have this experience please go and get some help! I personally was diagnosed with BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), which occurs when little fragments of calcium carbonate crystals loosen and get into the ear canals, where they are not supposed to be. The sensation is worsened by movement of the head, especially lying down, sitting up, and turning the head one way or the other. If you’d like to read more information about this type of vertigo, the Vestibular Disorders Association has an excellent article that may be of help.

 

10. Instant pots were designed by Canadians. 🙂

I’ve heard a bit about instant pots and recently looked into this phenomenon a little more. This handy and speedy appliance seems to be all the rage right now, with recipes and ideas for instant pots all over the web. When I read that the instant pot was designed by Canadians, it made this Canadian girl smile. It’s nice for one like me who is happily living in the United States with my American husband and two sons, when I see so many cool things that are “made in Canada”. If they are even half of what they’re cracked up to be, I should probably be moving this appliance to the top of my “things to buy” list!

 

11. We are much more productive doing ONE THING.

I am currently reading one of those books that seems like it will be a definite game-changer. In The ONE Thing, author Gary Keller (with Jay Papasan) talks about the fallacy of our multi-tasking society. He teaches us how to be sucessful in all areas of life, by simply focusing on the one most important thing.

For many of us (especially busy women and mothers who wear so many different hats all at once), this skill could actually change our lives. I’m looking forward to finishing the book and applying this truth to my own life.

 

12. Being busy doesn’t mean I necessarily learned any less, but it does mean I may not stop to remember.

Boy, it’s sure been a busy couple (or more) months! I do not care for that pace that leaves me feeling like most areas of my life are either out of control or totally neglected, and attempt to not live that way for long. I know that I’ve still learned a lot, but feel like I’ve barely taken the chance to stop and breathe and ponder nearly as much as I’d prefer. It looks like things may be evening out a little, but I think that recording what I’ve learned in seasons will be a good fit for me right now.

I don’t want to ever stop learning, but sometimes we have to slow down to realize or process the things that are going on around us.

I hope and pray that I will take every opportunity to cherish my life and the wonderful things that are happening all around me. God give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart full of gratitude.

*****

What have you learned this winter? Have you stopped to think about it or just to enjoy the beauty? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

 

coffee and inspirational books

Slow Down

coffee and inspirational books

Today’s post has been written for Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is “slow”.

*****

Why is it so hard to slow down?

I think that I love slow, but my reality suggests that I crave busyness and productivity. I am really good at busyness, but have lots of room for growth in using my time productively and efficiently.

I naturally feel compelled to run in circles, “getting things done”, all the while truly desiring the slow, quiet times.

This week I awoke one day with vertigo; a health concern I have dealt with over the past few years, and thankfully one that does not plague me as it did at first, mainly because I have been blessed with doctors and a physical therapist who taught me just what I needed to know to mostly stay healthy.

But it did make me slow down.

I vacillated about calling in sick to work last night, rationalizing that I could muddle through and then take a day off, but my body told me otherwise. My supervisor assured me that staying home and resting was the right thing to do.

Yesterday I read about all the rage of owning and using an Instant Pot. It seems everyone has one and who can live without one? One more appliance to learn, store and maintain could be helpful, but arguably could just be one more thing in my otherwise overflowing life. Sometimes these tools are blessings, allowing us to slow down, while other times it’s just adding to our busyness and clutter, when really we should be satisfied with what we have.

Today is another unseasonably warm day for February “winter” break in New England. It’s been hitting the 60’s, all but a few stubborn piles of snow have melted into what appears to be an early spring, and I have yet to get outdoors and enjoy this uncommon beauty.

I keep thinking of more things I should get done today on my day off, even though I worked a little too much while not feeling well yesterday, in order to be able to take today to totally rest.

So my main goal for the remainder of this day is to slow down,

enjoy life,

be thankful for my many blessings,

and trust that if I stop long enough to think, relax, and be grateful for what I have today,

everything will be waiting there for me tomorrow

and I will be able to work and play with renewed strength.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

when i am weak

When I Am Weak…

when i am weak

 

This post is written for Five Minute Friday, where I join a nice bunch of bloggers to write for five unedited minutes on a weekly prompt. Today’s word is weak.

*****

Why do I feel so weak?

Have you ever asked this question?

It may be any combination of factors: physical tiredness, hormonal imbalance, emotional fatigue, or just plain feeling overwhelmed, just to name a few.

We’ve all been there.

The Bible tells us that when we are weak, then He is our strength. You can read about Paul’s struggle with the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians.

 

My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.

 

 

Since it’s an inevitable part of the human experience, what can I do when I feel weak?

Here are some simple things to help when we are feeling weak:

 

  1. Go to bed! – You may simply need some rest! Take a nap or go to bed early, and give your body the rest it needs.
  2. Take a break – Sometimes we simply need to slow down or even stop, and just give our minds, bodies and emotions a breather.
  3. Do something that rejuvenates you – This can be different for all of us, depending on our personalities and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Take a walk or a hike outdoors, sit in the sun, enjoy a cup of coffee, listen to calming music, read a book, start a campfire, watch a favorite TV show, work on a fun project, or do something creative. Pick something that will give you the energy you need.
  4. Spend time with someone or people you love – We were designed to live in community. We were never made to go it alone. Spend time with someone who cares about you, who will build you up and offer godly encouragement and advice or simply provide a listening ear.
  5. Get appropriate help – It may be that you need to seek out the help and wisdom of a doctor, counselor or pastor/leader. It’s OK to ask for help, even though it is somewhat counter-cultural. True strength is not in doing it all alone, but in recognizing that sometimes we need a helping hand.
  6. Watch what you consume – Check your eating habits and take supplements if needed. The old saying, “You are what you eat” holds a lot of truth.
  7. Spend time with God – For Christ-followers, this is our life-line. Pray, read your Bible, spend some time in worship or simply in quiet “listening” mode. If you are not a believer, the simple act of quieting your mind and body will provide some needed refreshment and give you time to think.

These are just some simple tools that I’ve found to be helpful when I feel weak. I hope this list provides a springboard to your finding rest, strength and peace when you feel weak.

You may also wish to read a previous post I wrote about what to do when you are struggling emotionally.

*****