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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

pink blue sky with tree branches and snowy roof

Freedom in Learning the Balance of Control

 

 

pink blue sky with tree branches and snowy roof

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday. Join me there to read other writers’ brief, unedited thoughts on the prompt, “control”.

*****

Control.

So difficult a word for some of us. Or is it really quite simple?

I like to feel in control. My personality is most comfortable when I am the one in control.

I don’t always live with intention to control the things I can, such as my time, energy, attention, words, thoughts, and actions. This is an area that I am determined to change.

But there are so many things I cannot control.

It was so much easier when my sons were little. A parent can do well to provide a good deal of control when their kids are too little to understand what they need to do.

But teens and young adult offspring are not only harder to control; they also need to learn to live their own lives with intention.

It’s tempting to try to control those around us, even other adults (ask my poor husband), whom we have no ability nor business to do so.

I’d like to control my circumstances, but aside from using what God’s provided in this season of my life intentionally, I cannot control most of what the ebbs and flows of life bring.

But perhaps it’s really not as complicated as I make it out to be.

I can only change the things I can change. I’m learning to live more intentionally, but have a long way to go.

The rest I must leave to God, trust others to do their part, and chose my response or reaction with love and grace.

I guess this prayer really holds more wisdom and truth than I realized:

Serenity Prayer image

 

By learning to live this way, I may just find freedom.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

Tree branch silhouette with half moon

Managing in the Middle

Tree branch silhouette with half moon

Are you feeling stuck in the middle of anything right now?

Starting something new can be exhilarating and motivating, finishing can be a celebration and a relief, but what about life in the middle?

When you think about it, most of life is spent somewhere in the “middle”.

Just think about middle children for a minute. Not always, but often they can feel lost or have trouble finding their place in a family. They don’t necessarily have the expectations of being the responsible oldest child, nor the easy-going or fun personality of the youngest, yet they are created especially wonderful just where they are. Perhaps being in the middle frees us from expectations; what if we could just rest and be ourselves?

Being in the middle can be challenging. It can be mundane or boring, or on the other end of the spectrum, it can be difficult and stressful.

But what if we could relax and let God lead and provide for us right here in the middle?

I’d like to share a song with you that has really spoken to me, especially in some of those “middle” times.

 

 

It can be messy in the middle. Sometimes it feels so difficult and we feel we don’t have the strength to go on. Other times we feel we’ve lost our vision or our purpose and don’t feel motivated. We may even feel depressed.

I’m trying to learn that being in the middle is just where God wants us to be right now. I’m learning to trust him and his plan, to lean on him for strength, and to run to him for comfort.

I want my life to be a blessing, not only in the exciting new times or in the fulfilling finishing times, but right here in the middle.

Won’t you join me?

*****

This post was written for Five Minute Friday, where you can join us at the link-up to read other quick, mostly unedited writings of other bloggers.

*****

 

If you enjoyed this song, you can purchase it here:

 

 

willow tree angels and jar candle

Surrender to Christmas

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where you can enjoy a variety of short, mostly unedited writings on the prompt of, “surrender”, by a wonderful group of bloggers.

*****

willow tree angels and jar candle

Today we write on the prompt, “surrender”.

My first thoughts are very serious, deep and even “holy” when I think of the word, “surrender”.

But sometimes it’s best and even right to take a lighter, less pensive approach.

So today I choose to write on surrendering to Christmas.

Some of you may be taken aback or even recoil a bit in distaste. You may judge me for being too frivolous or having my priorities all wrong, but please let me explain.

I have always loved Christmas. It’s been the most special time of year and my favorite holiday for years. I even wrote my very first blog post on my experience with Christmas over the years.

I love it. I love the fun, the lightheartedness, the joy, the candles, the busyness, the baking, the music, wrapping gifts in the wee hours of the morning, the stockings, the decorations, watching my loved ones faces as they open a special gift, the lights, the singing, our Christmas tree and the snow.

putting up our Christmas tree

2015-12-04-00-00-12

colored lights decorating bedroom

Christmas food and hot beverages

 

baking cookies and Christmas decorations

 

Most of all, I love the true message of the real Christmas story.

 

Nativity decorations

As a disclaimer, I am not suggesting we should succumb to stress, greed, or wearing oneself out for the sake of the holiday (been there; done that). I don’t think the celebration was intended to be disliked and even hated, almost, by so many because it has become something negative or surrendering to way too many things we have to do. I don’t think this celebration was meant to be a time when we get so busy and preoccupied that we forget the true meaning and it negatively affects our attitude towards others (I’ve probably done a little too much of that, too), and our health (I used to get a yearly case of laryngitis after Christmas as a rule).

But I do enjoy the holiday. I really enjoy all the festivities and trimmings and activities.

And I intend to surrender, not to the chaos, but to the activities that bring joy to myself and to those around me. I plan to throw myself into this special celebration with all my heart and no guilt.

I especially love that the message Christmas still goes out in a variety venues to much of the lost world. I love that no matter how much some try to stop or squelch it, people all over hear of the God who sent his own son Jesus down as a frail human, in order to live among us and show us the way back to him.

They can see and hear it in Christmas displays, Christmas carols and music, in television shows and in church performances. It is sung by innocent children, polished professionals, church congregations and choirs.

Christmas show on television

Christmas music cd

So my plan this year is to embrace all that this time of year has to offer. I aim to keep things in perspective and in some sort of balance, but rather than fret or stress or bog myself down with questions, burdens and regrets, I want to enjoy this special holiday.

I chose to surrender to Christmas, and to the One who started it all.

*****

Do you love Christmas? Do you find it stressful and exhausting, or does it give you joy and gladness to celebrate? What can we do differently in order to prioritize the true meaning of the season?

 

 

 

 

Dayspring Fullness of Grace ecard

One Way I Celebrate Thanksgiving All Year Long

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

 

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For my Canadian friends and family who celebrated Thanksgiving over a month ago, this is the season in which they have been leisurely getting ready for Christmas for weeks already. Meanwhile, we in the US are entering that crazy, festive, between-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas-Day rush and frenzy, attempting to cram all the good celebrations of two big holidays into just under a month…..but I digress.

Regardless of when (or how rushed) you celebrate the special holiday of giving thanks, I think it’s one of the best traditions we honor. We are so abundantly blessed, especially in this part of the world where I’ve been told that about 20% of us enjoy about 80% of the wealth.

But even better than our physical blessings, are the unseen gifts that we are privileged to enjoy every day.

Love, joy, freedom, forgiveness, salvation, comfort, friendship and humor just to name a few, all free but priceless blessings we must not take for granted.

Each November, one of the traditions I’ve kept now for several years came about as a suggestion from a friend on Facebook. The challenge was to post a list of things I was thankful for every day from November 1st until Thanksgiving Day, each day using words starting with each corresponding letter of the alphabet from A to Z. That was fun (and good practice for Scrabble games), and a good practice in being thankful for more than just one day.

A couple of years ago, my sister started a similar practice (also on Facebook), but instead decided to take a special photo each day and post her gratitude visually with an apt description. For a family who loves photography (and especially likes to share it online since we all live far apart), this idea was appealing. So I’ve been doing something along these lines each day in November for the past couple of years.

This year my online Pilates instructor challenged us to record three things each day we are thankful for, and being a quiet rebel and photography lover I decided to post one or more photos on Facebook instead of writing them. I include a list or description of three things I am thankful for. I have to say that my Facebook friends seem to really enjoy this, and I think it inspires them to be thankful, too.

While all these practices are good, what about the rest of the year?

While I like having a special time or holiday set aside each year to give special focus and attention to something or someone good, shouldn’t our hearts overflow with thanksgiving every day of the year???

Several years ago I started what I like to call a gratitude journal.

It was inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, which I read and studied along with my church women’s small group. It was inspirational to say the least, and has helped me to be thankful every day.

Since then, I have attempted to record at least three things each day in my journal, starting my day off with an attitude of gratitude that seeps into the rest of my day. I don’t always remember or take the time, but overall it is a practice I highly recommend.

Another of my favorite inspirational authors and bloggers, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom also encourages her readers to follow her example and keep this daily habit. She even created her own gratitude journal which you can purchase, but any journal or notebook will do.

Here’s what mine looks like:

live laugh love journal

Some of the things I record are more serious, while others are just little things that I enjoy in the moment.

enjoy the little things plaque and candle

But overall, it helps me to be more aware of all of the blessings I find around me each and every day.

gratitude list

This is one way I celebrate Thanksgiving all year long.

I hope you will join me.

*****

Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? Do you need help (as I do) to remember to keep a grateful heart? What are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

my cat Buster and I

What Makes Me Happy?

Today I’m linking up with some wonderful bloggers at FiveMinuteFriday, writing on the prompt, “happy”.

 

my cat Buster and I

Me and Buster.

Happy.

It’s a simple word, but why is it often so difficult to attain in our daily life?

As a somewhat serious person and a Christian, the obvious way to discuss happiness is to contrast this emotion with the deep, everlasting joy that can be ours no matter what the circumstances. I would also mention that if you are not able to feel much happiness, please take care of yourself until you can, and/or get the appropriate help as needed.

But besides all that serious stuff, sometimes I feel like it’s good and healthy, and helpful to just do something everyday that makes you feel happy.

No, our true happiness isn’t based on emotion, but we are real, flesh and bone people with real, sometimes raw emotions. It’s a good practice to care for our body, mind and soul, as well as our spirit. And it’s OK to “help” our emotions along in a practical way.

enjoy the little things

So here are some things that “help” my emotions to feel happy:

  • a nice, hot cup of good coffee
  • some slow, quiet time to myself
  • ice-cream (yes; I even scare my husband with how much this helps me)
  • some “girlfriend” time
  • spending time in nature, God’s wonderful creation
  • doing something creative
  • getting some rest and/or a good sleep
  • reading a good book
  • watching a good movie or favorite TV show
  • petting one (or both) of my cats
  • doing some exercise that I love
  • looking at and enjoying photos, the memories of my life
  • wearing something that makes me smile
  • watching “my” humingbirds
  • doing something with my family

These are just a sample of things I do that make me feel happy. And when we feel happy, it helps us to move in a positive direction and do the more important things in our lives.

My Bible verse-of-the-day today is this:

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

– Ephesians 5:1-2, NLT

 

I believe that one way we can “imitate God” and “live a life of love” as Jesus did, is to just be happy.

It’s a decision, and one that some of us need to be more purposeful about.

Here’a to a happy day!

 

*****

Some things to think about (and comment, if you please):

What do you do to help you to feel happy? Do you notice that if you make yourself feel happy, you are more able to cope and do the things you know you should do? If you’re a Christ-follower, do you think that Jesus had a mostly “happy” demeanor?

 

 

 

 

uncooked pizzas

How to Get Help By Asking

 

uncooked pizzas

My two-pizza deal.

 

The Tale of Two Pizzas, a Used Car Battery, and What We Can Learn From All of This

 

Yesterday I had a really nice thing happen to me at the supermarket.

I felt so happy and inspired, that I had to share this simple story… for two reasons.

One, it was truly one of those nice little blessings for which I am very thankful, and two, it shows how we often receive by simply asking.

*****

As I was perusing the vegetable and deli section of our supermarket, I came upon the shelf where the store-made, ready-to-bake calzones and pizzas are located. I was looking forward to taking advantage of a special the store was running, in which if I bought one fresh calzone, I would receive a free fresh pizza. A perfect treat for this Friday’s dinner.

But alas, there were no more calzones to be had.

Not to give up immediately, I looked around for a store worker, and saw a young man stocking shelves nearby. I approached him and asked him if there were any more calzones available to purchase for the special. He in turn asked someone behind the meat counter, and they both looked over at another gentleman who was apparently shopping. The young store guy approached this other man (who was dressed in regular clothes), and they both came over to help me.

I found out the man who was shopping was an employee (must have been a supervisor or manager of some sort), who said he had, “just taken his badge off”, and was shopping. I told him my dilemma apologetically (since he was off of work already), but his pleasant response was in the spirit of true customer service.

First he told me that there were probably not going to be any more calzones today. I said, “OK” with a slight hesitation and a little disappointment, but I would have been OK with this outcome. It was his next question that caught me off guard in a good sort of way. He then said, “What can I do to make this right?”.

I wasn’t sure what to suggest, and so he then offered me a buy-one-pizza, get-one-free deal, and asked if that would make me happy. I told him it certainly would, so he had me give his name to the cashier and said to tell them that he had OK’d the substitution. I thanked him, and with a renewed bounce in my step (and two new pizzas in my cart), off I went to complete my grocery shopping.

You see, I could have just walked (or stomped), off in disappointment without any calzones or pizza in my cart. I would have gotten over it, but it would have left a slightly negative taste in my mouth. But by taking a little effort to politely ask for help, I was blessed with an even better deal (the pizza was less expensive than the calzone I was originally going to buy). I felt happy and cared for as a customer, and very satisfied, and can now happily recommend this particular market to others!

*****

My husband had a similar experience a little while ago at the auto parts store. He had purchased a car battery which stopped working, and in bringing it in to pick up a replacement, he was told that it was just days out of warranty.

He had one of our sons with him, whom he looked over at and basically said, “Now watch and learn.”

He spoke to someone who worked there (probably asked for a supervisor), told him of his problem, and politely asked what they could do for him since it was so close to the warranty date.

This store employee was able to offer him a substantial discount on a new battery, even though technically it was past warranty. My husband was also very pleased and now feels even better about supporting this business.

You see, by the letter of the law, in either case we should have just been “satisfied” going without, but with a little effort and going out of our comfort zones to ask, we were each blessed with something slightly undeserved.

My husband often speaks of how his father taught him to “haggle” or bargain with people at yard sales and such. He was probably embarrassed sometimes when he was young (OK, he said he literally slouched down in the car seat on some occasions), but in the end, he was taught the value of saving money and simply asking for something better than what was offered.

I’m not suggesting we should not ever be willing to pay a fair price for an item without any bargaining; it’s just that although some of us are not naturally comfortable with this practice, many people or businesses would rather profit monetarily a little less in order to gain your trust, confidence and loyalty. There are those in business who truly wish to meet your needs as a customer, and at the very least, it’s a practical business practice to please one’s customers.

It won’t always work out in our favor. We need to be courteous and polite, even if the answer is, “no”.

But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

*****

Now let’s think about some spiritual applications.

The Bible clearly tells us to ask and we will receive.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

– Matthew 7:7 NLT

It also tells us that sometimes we act selfishly and foolishly, but still don’t have something because we simply haven’t asked God.

“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.”

-James 4:2 NLT

To provide balance, the scriptures also guide us in the principles of being content, living with thanksgiving, treating others with respect, and enduring hardship and persevering through the difficulties that will come in life.

I’m not going to get all theological here, but let’s just simplify things for a moment.

As a Christian, I truly believe that God not only knows and loves me, but he knows best what I need. Sometimes he will give me an obvious blessing or even a miracle, to teach me of his eternal care and his unlimited power.

Other times, like a loving but firm parent, he will answer my request with a “no” or perhaps a “wait”, because he cares less about my comfort, and more about my growth as a person. Sometimes my suffering will result in more good (for myself and/or others), and he sees the bigger picture.

So why not just ask God, just as a child would ask a parent, and patiently and thankfully await his response.

There are some stipulations, such as making sure what I’m asking for is not going against his commandments or his nature, and making sure my heart is right in order to make a wise request. But just as a child with a parent, sometimes I will receive a blessing I don’t deserve or wouldn’t have otherwise received had I not asked.

How we enjoy those moments!

At other times, I will be treated like the loved daughter that I am to God, and will have to wait or even give up my desire. In those situations, I will have the opportunity to learn trust and patience. Sometimes I will have to endure hardship or discipline to make me a stronger, more mature person.

Often the child does not know what is best for them, but a wise and caring parent can see a bigger picture.

God our Father really does know what is best.

In times of suffering and difficulty, or even just minor discomfort, I will gain “tools” which I can use to bless and help others in similar circumstances. I can deepen my understanding for others in difficult situations, and offer them heart-felt compassion and a listening ear or timely advice.

So whether it’s for practical reasons like saving our hard-earned cash, or to receive a non-material or spiritual blessing, I encourage you to go ahead and ask.

You just never know what good may come of it.

*****

 

 

 

 

fruit tart with candle

50 Things I’m Thankful For On My 50th Birthday

fruit tart with candle

My 50th birthday “cake”.

Well, this week marks an important date in history…..

Half a century ago, a wonderful little girl was born…..me!!! 😉

It’s never really bothered me too much to get older.

Thirty was absolutely no problem!

At forty, I still wasn’t bothered, but I did note that it felt weird to remember clearly when my mother turned the same age.

But FIFTY???

 

50 Years Well Lived

*****THE BIG 5 – 0 !!!*****

 

 

I’ve been thinking of how to celebrate this momentous occasion for awhile now.  My husband turned fifty this past January, so it’s already been on my mind for some time. These are some of the options I decided against:

  1. Crying and flipping out over being a half century old.
  2. Drowning my sorrows in fifty pounds of cake and ice-cream (although that one was tempting; and I will indulge in at least a little!)
  3. Attempting to blow out fifty birthday candles on my cake (before someone calls the fire department).
  4. Running away from home (to “find” myself).
  5. Doing fifty push-ups (although my Pilates workouts have helped me get closer to this one; OK, not close, but at least I can do a few now), or running fifty miles.

After all that contemplating, I decided that the best way to celebrate fifty years of life is ….. to CELEBRATE!

And what better way to celebrate than to think about the things for which I am thankful?

So for my 50th birthday, here are “a few” things I’m thankful for (some serious; some silly), in no particular order.

 

50 Things I’m Thankful For On my 50th Birthday:

  1. my good life
  2. health & wellness
  3. hot coffee in the morning (here’s my favourite; see point # 48)
  4. the warmth and light of summer
  5. a wonderful, faithful, loving, fun, handy husband
  6. my thoughtful and clever oldest son
  7. my sensitive and creative youngest son
  8. our cute and slightly mischievous cat, Chester
  9. our skittish but affectionate cat, Buster
  10. a very nice home
  11. my godly and creative mother
  12. my silly but wise father
  13. a sister who is a best friend (& her dear family)
  14. a grand-mother who is healthy for her age of 98, who is the remaining one of two great-grandmothers that my sons have had the privilege to know
  15. precious memories of years with my other grandmother (who passed away this past summer at the age of 93)
  16. two very different, yet equally special grandfathers (who have both left this life many years ago)
  17. ice-cream (a single food that solves so many of life’s problems!)
  18. growing up on two acres in the country
  19. a physically demanding, yet therapeutic summer job (on the farm)
  20. picking up our fresh farm shares from June to October (CSA)
  21. pleasant surprises in the mail
  22. cold-brewed iced coffee (the other temperature for my favorite drink)
  23. watching sci-fi movies, old television series, and Lord of the Rings with our sons
  24. having experienced the best homemade dill pickles and fruit pies (in the whole world; and I’m not biased!), made by my grandmother
  25. the grace of God (and mercies that are new every morning!)
  26. living beside grandparents for the first part of my life
  27. planting my new plants and herbs
  28. enjoying the hummingbirds who come to eat and visit our home in the warm weather
  29. a thriving, exciting, friendly, balanced, fun church
  30. the opportunity to minister on our worship team (at church)
  31. my online Pilates instructor (Robin Long of The Balanced Life), workouts, and community (the Sisterhood)
  32. Jesus’ incomparable gift of forgiveness and eternal life
  33. extended family who love and serve God and love each other
  34. Downton Abbey (first tv show I watched just for me)
  35. the opportunity to attend Bible college at Elim Bible Institute
  36. having a good relationship my aunts, uncles and cousins
  37. the Bible (my road-map for life) – here‘s a nice one 🙂
  38. my girlfriends (you know who you are!)
  39. doing something creative
  40. USA – a great country in which to live and have my family <3
  41. photography, photos, and scrapbooking
  42. sitting in the warm sun on my front porch watching nature (with a coffee)
  43. my long, quiet dead-end street
  44. nice neighbors
  45. connecting with friends and loved ones on Facebook
  46. relaxing with a good novel
  47. the changing of the seasons
  48. the opportunity to be born in Canada, but living in New England
  49. baking and eating it
  50. fruit tarts (better than cake!)

50th birthday (from Jon)

I hope you enjoyed my list and found it at least a little inspiring or entertaining.

Now I’m off for some leftover Chinese food and a nice piece of fruit tart. 🙂

*****

 

 

 

 

 

2016-05-10 Life is Good cabin tee shirt

Life is Good (Why I Choose to Wear Positve Message Tee Shirts)

2016-05-10 Life is Good cabin tee shirt

 

You know, some of us just naturally see the glass as “half empty”.

If left to my own devices, often I tend to notice what’s wrong, give in to worry, or think and speak negativity. I must be a lot of fun to be around, huh?

Many have said they can’t believe I’d ever yell at my kids, say an unkind word, or have a negative outlook, but it’s partly because the introverted part of me helps me keep this “under wraps”. (I actually think I’m one of those ambiverts, but that’s another story.) In public I’m usually on my “best behavior”.

But sometimes my poor, unsuspecting family (and perhaps a close friend or two), see me at my “worst”…..which is not always particularly positive.

Not only is being a “negative” person no fun (for anyone involved), but it goes against everything I believe.

I’m not saying that if you’re a Christian nothing will go wrong….or that you should go around with a phony smile on your face pretending to feel happy (please, don’t do that!).

But we have a hope which should affect our thoughts, attitudes and words.

 

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Philippians 4:8, NLT

I truly intend to think and speak in ways that are full of love, hope and goodness, but sometimes I need a little help.

Enter my “Life is Good” tee shirts.

Life is Good tees on bed 2016-05-10

Call them, “bumper stickers for people”, if you will. I like the fun and positive messages, even if they’re not theologically “deep”. They’re soft and comfortable (which helps with the positive feelings), and I’ve enjoyed wearing them now for years.

Wearing a shirt with a positive message like this is making a statement, both to myself and to those around me. It seems to express in a simple way the values I’m striving for…..even if I sometimes struggle to keep my attitudes and actions in check.

Life is Good tees (folded)

Now I’m not suggesting that wearing a shirt with a positive message will change your attitude in and of itself.

And there are plenty of more serious methods of dealing with a negative attitude (which sounds like a post for another day).

But a little visual reminder of what I believe and what I intend to be like can go a long way towards helping me to change. What we speak strongly affects our attitude and our actions.

So why not sport a cute shirt with a happy message??? (Or carry a happy, little pink drawstring backpack?)

Life is Good pink bag 2016-05-10

I purpose to think, speak and act in a more positive way. I continue to ask God to help me to see things the way he does, to look for the best in every situation, and to help me to truly believe that my “life is good”.

 

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

-Psalm 19:14

*****

Do you ever have trouble seeing the best in things? What helps you to keep a positive outlook on life?

 

Our house with violets

How I Felt When You Complemented My Home

Our house with violets

I really do have a lovely home.

It’s not huge or new or rich, but it is pretty and cozy. It’s about “average” as far as houses go around here, but so much more than most people in our world would ever dream of.

We picked it over twenty years ago, and I can still remember how quickly it felt like “home” when we moved in. We added two kittens shortly after we purchased our house, and within about a year, I was pregnant with our first child.  It is where we are supposed to be right now.

our home - winter 2015-16

But often I notice what is wrong, not clean, needs fixing, isn’t new, is broken, or how small it feels when we have a certain number of guests. I see newer furniture and appliances that would just look nice, be more “functional”, or would make life easier.

Sometimes I look with envy at others’ homes, either in Facebook photos or in real life. We can always find someone with a bigger, newer, more modern house and more “stuff”.

I’ve already shared about how easy it is to struggle with discontentment; in fact, my second post ever was about how I often have to remind myself to be grateful for the things I have.

This is part of our own human nature, but also augmented by a wealthy culture which thrives on consumerism.

But I need to remember that there is probably someone looking at me in the same way, wishing they had a house perhaps, or maybe just wishing their big home was filled with peace.

Our living-room

Sometimes I just need a reminder of how lovely and wonderful my life really is. I need to focus on the positives, rather than the lacks.

This past week, I had two individuals complement my home.

One was someone we are just getting to know. He walked through our door on the first night he joined our church community group and said something like, “What a beautiful home you have!”

Exercise mat in living-room with cat

The second was a complete stranger. She was responding to a photo I shared on a Facebook page for those of us participating in a Pilates fitness challenge. It was a photo of a corner of my living-room, where I had my exercise mat, near the couch with the sleeping kitties. She commented, “What a lovely space!”

So once again I’m reminded of how blessed I really am. I needed those reminders (and I guess it took two of them), to get my attention once more to be grateful.

I needed once again to look at my life with fresh eyes.

There’s been a little video circling in social media lately that speaks to this, so maybe I’m not the only one who needs to be reminded.

 

And there’s another lesson as well.

Don’t hesitate to give out heart-felt compliments. It may be just what that person needs to hear on a day when life feels overwhelming. It may give them a renewed sense of how their life is blessed.

Our house with summer watermelon flag

And thank-you to those friends who took the time and followed your hearts to share your compliments with me.

They made my day and are helping to make my grateful life.

Our house - kitchen entrance

humming-bird feeder and hanging plant

enjoy the little things

*****