May sky with day moon

I’ve Got a Question

May sky with day moon

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

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Excuse me; I have a question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So please excuse me. I have a question.

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purple creeping phlox in my garden

What I Learned This Spring

purple creeping phlox in my garden

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

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1.Can you really eat pineapple this way? –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I recently got new silverware.

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

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

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

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

5.We’re learning about identifying ducks. –

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

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

6.Organizing and decluttering really does save time. –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

Life is an Opportunity

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

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

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I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately.

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

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

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

I see that each moment is a gift.

I recognize that things that seem ordinary are special.

I desire to complain less and praise and encourage more.

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

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

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

Let’s learn to just be present,

be real,

be content,

and love the days we’ve been given.

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

Because life truly is an opportunity.

God With Us

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

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

Matthew 1:23 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

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

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

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

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

He made himself the solution to our need.

He came to us.

God with us.

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

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

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

 

 

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

Isaiah 9:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

Love has come. Peace is here.

God with us. 

Merry Christmas.

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east coast shore with sun setting

Are You Who You Want to Be?

east coast shore with sun setting

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Isn’t that how life is?

We dream and plan and make choices.

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

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

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

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

 

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

First, I wish to be content.

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

That’s why I keep a gratitude journal.

Nothing changes our perspective more than a thankful heart.

Secondly, I desire to live with intention.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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sailboat on Lake Winnipesaukee

The Key to Living in Freedom

 

sailboat on Lake Winnipesaukee

 

I’d like to share two seemingly unrelated things from my quiet time this morning which actually go together quite nicely.

 

One is this quote that jumped out at me from my devotional reading (from A Moment to Breathe, devotional from the (in)courage community):

“The actions we take in honoring the people in our lives show us the face of God.”

I’m still chewing on that one…but it seems that as we show love and honor to others, we see and know more of God.

Then I read another devotional from my emails (Loop, Gather ministries) this morning and listened to the suggested song, Sails, which you can enjoy below.

In my natural disposition, I do not consistently live in freedom. I have been blessed over the years with a fun family (both growing up and the one my husband & I created), so I don’t always go around sulking and down.

But when left to my own devices, especially in the busyness of life, I can easily let go of my lightheartedness and freedom, and grasp instead at control and perfectionism.

And how can I reach out and share with others when I am bound up in my own negative or overwhelming emotions, distracted from my purpose and mission for which God created me?

This song feels like that freedom to me. I need to “let out the sails of my heart” and just be with God, the One who created me and truly knows me, yet still loves me.

And when I walk and live with Him, I will really live set free.

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Do you want to live in real freedom? What things hold you back or keep you bound? How does this affect your reaching out and sharing your gifts with others?

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blueberry avocado muffins thriving home

Thirteen: Unlucky Number or Baker’s Dozen?

blueberry avocado muffins thriving home

Today’s post contains my thoughts about the Five Minute Friday link-up prompt, thirteen.

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The number thirteen conveys so many different things.

The first aspect of thirteen is that it is the “unlucky” number. People feel so strongly about this that it has created many superstitions, even causing many tall buildings to not even have a thirteenth floor.

Although I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, I often naturally tend to see things in a negative light.

But thirteen has a better meaning; one on which I’d much rather place my focus.

The baker’s dozen.

What can be better than going to purchase your favorite home-baked donuts or fresh bagels and being offered a thirteenth, free baked good?

Instead of focusing on something negative or bad, I’d rather focus on the good, and even special things in life.

I need to remind myself daily to choose gratitude and to see things from a larger perspective, rather than dwell on what seems negative or difficult in the moment.

Besides, even difficulties can cause us to grow if we allow them, and I believe there can be purpose even in our pain.

It’s a matter of perspective.

So next time I see the number thirteen, rather than going down the path of negativity, I choose to focus on the good; the free gifts that life has to offer me.

It may not be easy or come naturally, but we can choose gratitude and a positive perspective.

This is the life I wish to cultivate.

Won’t you join me?

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bush shaped like a heart

Learning to Adapt My Dreams

bush shaped like a heart

Writing today for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where our word prompt is adapt.

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Do you have dreams?

I’m not sure I always do. In fact, a few months ago when I read or heard somewhere a question to challenge us to think about what was holding us back from our dreams, I realized with some dismay that I feel like lately I haven’t had any.

I naturally tend to get caught up in life’s busyness and “shoulds”, and often forget to dream for something bigger.

And I totally believe that there are some of us, in certain seasons, where we need to adapt our dreams to something bigger; something that only God can help us to accomplish.

But equally important, what if we were to accept the “regular” life we have right now, with all of it’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, as God’s dream for our lives?

I read two different blog posts this past week that encouraged me to think a little differently.

One reminded me that God’s dream for me may be the life I’m living right now; the other spoke about how all of life is art and that we grow closer to God’s purposes for us in the mundane tasks of everyday life.

One of my favorite songs from Switchfoot challenges me that this is the life I’ve always dreamed of, or at least it can be.

 

 

So instead of focusing on the future, on what may yet to be (as wonderful or ordinary as it may turn out), I am learning to adapt my dream to the amazing and complex and awesome life that God has given me right now.

I pray that I may live each day to the fullest, accept God’s plan for my days, and choose to do the next right thing along the way.

May I adapt my dreams to love the life I’m living.

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If you’ve enjoyed this song, you may purchase the song or the album on which it appears, The Beautiful Letdown.

Late afternoon sunset over parking lot

When We Want to Ask Why

This post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where this week’s word prompt is why.

 

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Late afternoon sunset over parking lot

 

In this week’s devotional reading, author & speaker Jennie Allen is speaking to me about suffering. It is a deep and painful topic, but something with which we all must come to terms.

She says,

“I am a big believer in Christian counseling, and that may be an important step in your healing, but no study or counselor can do what Jesus can do. He suffered and wants to walk with you through your suffering as the open wounds heal into scars, leaving a memory and a mark but losing their sting.”

That last sentence reminds me so much of the outcome of my younger sister’s suffering as her first husband went through four years of fighting with Hodgkin’s disease. He had good seasons and bad and even underwent a bone marrow transplant, but in the end, God chose to take him home at a very young age.

Not too many years after that, on one particularly significant date in their relationship, I asked her if the memory was still painful. I’ll never forget my sister’s answer to me at that time. She told me that with the passing of time and the healing she had worked through, it was as if the experience was tucked into a folder, which she could pull out when needed, but it no longer caused her daily hurt. She could use her experience as a tool to help others, but it no longer had to live in her heart.

I also think way back to when my grandfather passed away early on the morning we were supposed to leave for our family vacation. As I awoke as an 11-year old with the anticipation of leaving on our trip, I immediately sensed that something was wrong. My parents explained that Grandpa had suffered another heart attack and had gone on to be with the Lord.

Of course I was sad and would work through my own grief as I watched the pain of my grandmother and mother, but in that childish moment, the first question I tentatively asked my parents was if that meant we weren’t going on our vacation. I knew the answer, but my heart still felt disappointed in the moment.

I don’t even remember exactly how my parents answered (except that we would go later on), but I clearly remember that even though my mom had just lost her father, she understood my question and allowed me to first grieve the loss of a vacation before I processed the greater loss of our loved one.

These experiences are two of many times of suffering we have known, but they teach me something about pain, suffering and loss.

I think it’s OK to ask God the question, “Why?”, as he understands our frail human emotions. It’s only natural to ponder the reasons for hard experiences, and we’d be lying if we pretended everything was just fine. After all, the Bible speaks of many people of faith who asked God these hard questions.

But in the end, it’s a matter of the heart.

Do I trust God enough to believe, even in my questioning, that he loves me and is faithful?

I have a choice when it comes to my times of pain and suffering.

I can choose to dwell in the hurt and questions, or I can allow myself to grow, stretch and heal, until one day the experience is there only as a testament to his faithfulness and a reference to help others.

Jennie Allen also states,

“Out of our pain we could heal our world. Fires are lit in our lives through our suffering and they can burn to shine light or cause destruction; we get to decide which purpose they will serve.”

So go ahead and ask the hard question, “Why?”. I’m sure that God’s shoulders are big enough to handle it.

Then make a choice to allow your why to become a part of the greater purpose that God has for your life.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny winter sky over buildings

Being Intentional with our Intentions

Sunny winter sky over buildings

 

Today’s post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, and the word prompt for this week is intentional.

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Can I let you in on a secret?

Being more intentional has been on my thoughts and mind for some time now. It’s an area where I feel like I need a great deal of improvement in my life, although in some areas I am very disciplined. When I was naming my blog, I originally wanted to use the words simple or simply and intentional. They were both thoughts that I believed to be important areas for myself and other women (or men) to implement in our daily lives to live successfully (flourishing).

On my childhood report cards, I generally had really good grades often accompanied by the constructive comment that I needed to work on being self-motivated. As an adult, I’ve still had trouble with time management. I seem to be able to be quite disciplined in some areas, but lacking greatly in others.

And so I want to be more intentional with my intentions. 

You’ve heard it said that as individuals we generally judge ourselves by our intentions (what we mean to do) and others by their actions (what they actually do). Apparently this idea was originally quoted from Stephen M.R. Covey,  He is well known for his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, so his wisdom in this area is not surprising.

So just how can we accomplish more of what we desire, and better yet, what God desires of our lives?

That is something that in middle age I feel like I’m just starting to really learn. I’ve been actively taking some steps to make better use of my precious time. So at least I know where to start.

I know that my goals or intentions, if you will, will only come to fruition if I take practical, measurable steps. It will require some planning and ideally a good deal of praying, but in the end I just need to move forward with discipline, one baby step at a time.

Being intentional requires planning and action.

The first definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word intentional reads,

“done by intention or design”.

Won’t you join me in designing a more intentional life?

My good intentions can only come to be when I learn the discipline of being intentional.

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