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.

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

 

 

Japanese kintsugi art

Make Something Beautiful Of Your Brokenness in 2017

 

 

Japanese kintsugi art

Happy New Year, friends!

I don’t know about you, but I feel somewhat behind the eight ball in this new year.

While I keep reading online blog and social media posts about folks who have all their goals mapped out for 2017, I am still trying to adjust to “non-holiday” status and schedule, clean up the pine needles under the tree, and begin to remove our Christmas decorations.

I am only beginning to think, pray and plan for this new year.

Not that I’m behind with my Christmas stuff still out, because I have always really loved Christmas , and in my family we would never even dream of removing our tree or decorations before several days past the new year!

And since my mom’s mother was born in the Ukraine, we have always had Ukrainian Christmas as an excuse to enjoy our things right into the beginning of January. Even though we technically don’t hold to the traditions of this celebration, it was always something we were aware of, and just feels right to keep the holidays going a little bit longer.

This year, I think my celebration on January 7th (the date for Ukrainian Christmas) will be while taking down the tree and lovingly sorting and storing our decorations.

So I think that today’s post is somewhat appropriate.

Although it seems that I do not have my act together (at least according to the timeline and suggestions of others), I can not only enjoy celebrating an imperfect Christmas, but I can celebrate the fact that I am an imperfect human being.

pine needles under Christmas tree

Recently I learned that there is an ancient Japanese art form which repairs broken pottery in a unique way.

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.”

You can read a little more about that in this article, and there is even a link provided to order a kit to try it yourself, if you’re so inclined.

The idea is that instead of attempting to hide the imperfections of a broken bowl, vase, or dish, the cracks and crevices are actually emphasized, but also beautified, by being repaired with an adhesive containing particles of gold (or another precious metal).

The result is a beautifully unique vessel. This process is contrary to our way of thinking, but I think we can learn a lot from this Japanese art form and the healthy thought and attitude around it.

Our imperfections are not to be hidden, avoided or loathed, but rather embraced, learned from and celebrated (when we allow ourselves to grow and use our weakness to empathize with others).

kintsukuroi repaired flower plate

This pretty plate has been repaired at the top with gold, making it a completely unique vessel.

Am I suggesting that we forget about goal-setting, don’t attempt to do anything differently or better for the future, or just be satisfied meeting the status quo? Of course not!

But if we accept our lives with our unique limitations, extend a little more grace to ourselves and those around us, learn from and grow in the areas we are weak, share our feelings and understanding with others, and realize that we cannot do it alone, we will be stronger and more happy for it.

We can humbly accept help and support from those around us and ask for guidance, wisdom and strength from the God who created us.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” – James 1:2-5 NLT

***

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

 

So as we move forward into 2017 with hope and expectation, let’s let go of the fear, embrace where we are in life, and hold on to those we hold most dear.

Let’s make the most of our brokenness, offering our lives as a vessel made more beautiful to bless others.

*****

 

 

breakfast, devotions, clutter, hope

Hope and Peace Amidst the Chaos

I sure love Christmas and the holiday season! I keep wanting to write fun posts about “Christmasy” things, but lately I have been drawn to write about the more “serious” side of things, like finding peace in this busy, festive season.

I’ll try to be brief, but in this morning’s quiet time I gleaned some truths I’d love to share. Because I know I’m not the only one who tends towards feelings of overwhelm and stress during this time of year.

breakfast, devotions, clutter, hope

Do these photos look anything like parts of your home this time of year?

It’s hard to keep up, let alone have any sort of balance in our lives. In my first picture, I like how my Bible and “quiet time” materials are in the foreground (as they should be), and if you look carefully, you’ll see that there is “hope” in the background. Putting our focus on what matters will give us a sense of hope.

my cluttered kitchen

I’ve always loved the Christmas holiday and am tempted to “do it all”. (You can read about that here in my very first post ever.)

For today, allow me to just share a little bit of the devotional idea in this morning’s reading.

My husband really knows me, so when I awoke to his “Jesus Calling” devotional lying open on top of my computer, I took the hint that he wanted me to take a look at today’s reading.

I am so glad I did!

Today’s reading began with,

“Do not be weighed down by the clutter in your life”,

which immediately had my full attention in the middle of my holiday “chaos”.

The author then continued with some very practical, yet spiritual advice:

“Instead of trying to do all your chores at once, choose the ones that need to be done today. Let the rest slip into the background of your mind so I can be in the forefront of your awareness.”

(The readings are written from the perspective of God speaking to us.)

What simple, yet profound advice for all!

If you are a Christ-follower this is especially meaningful, but how practical for anyone to focus only on what’s in front of us, giving that our full attention. I need to hear this at Christmas and other times of busyness, but also each day as I endeavor to use my time with intention, and infuse it with meaning.

The author encourages us to keep our focus on Christ, which is always the best advice, but especially meaningful during the season designed to remember his first coming.

If you’ve never read this devotional, I highly recommend it. My husband is enjoying it’s brief, yet meaningful daily readings. Each time I hear it, it has been an encouragement to me as well.

(No wonder it’s rated at about 4.9 on Amazon’s reviews! Click on the image for more information.)

 

I’ll close with the very appropriate scripture passages suggested for today’s reading:

 

“Commit your actions to the Lord,

    and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

***

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,

and he will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33

***

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”

    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” – Psalm 27:8

***

“You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”- Isaiah 26:3

(All scriptures are presented in the New Living Translation.)

 

peace decoration on door

I pray that these thoughts and verses will be an encouragement to you as well. Let’s intentionally use each day and each moment this Christmas to focus on what really matters.

 

Have a wonderful day!

*****

 

close-up of calendar day square

Now

close-up of calendar day square

I’ve always been one to look forward to things.

It’s so easy for me to think, plan, anticipate, and sometimes even worry over the future.

I also think a lot about the past.

I like to remember, even re-live good moments, and sometimes find myself dwelling on hard ones.

But living in the moment??? It’s not my forte.

Especially during this wonderful but busy Christmas season, I find myself striving to make everything work, get everything done, and make at least some of the people happy.

cat sleeping with decorative lights behind

 

I long to have peace and celebrate the true meaning of the season.

So what’s a girl to do?

wreath in front of window

I can’t change the past. It’s good to remember and celebrate those moments in which God was with us, helped us to grow, or when things felt “right”.

cat sitting by Christmas tree

I can’t control the future, although I may plan and do my part to make it good.

 

I can only live in the NOW.

 

I can only decide what is the best next step right NOW.

I can only receive God’s gift of grace and peace RIGHT NOW.

 

I’m so thankful that even though God sent his son to this weary world over two thousand years ago, Jesus came for all of my “nows”.

He came to show us the way not only for eternity, but for today….. in both the “good” and the “bad”.

This Christmas, won’t you join me as we rest in the simplicity of the moment, celebrating and enjoying whatever good gifts God has given us right NOW?

 

my Willow Tree Nativity set

*****

Today’s post is written for the last link-up of 2016 with my friends at Five Minute Friday. Feel free to take a few moments from your busy schedule and ponder the thoughts of other bloggers on the prompt, “now”. Enjoy!

 

Hope, window, angel, Christmas cards

Count it All Joy

Hope, window, angel, Christmas cards

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday on the prompt, “joy“.

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Oh, how I wish to just write a simple, happy post about Christmas joy today!

But the first phrase that came to me as I started to think about this prompt is the scripture that reads, “count it all joy” (probably in the King James version). So I looked it up in a more modern translation.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4, NLT

This isn’t the joy we like to experience in our flesh (our natural selves), but it is the type of joy often spoken of in the Bible.

I’ve always loved the Christmas season best of all and most years have been filled with joy.

But there are so many who are hurting around me even now; those who have lost loved ones recently and will spend Christmas alone, those with a chronic illness looming over their bodies, many who face seemingly insurmountable difficulties and those who are simply a little lost.

My own recent “trials” seem so trivial in light of these more serious difficulties.

Yesterday we got a new fridge, but like so many household projects, things began to go wrong. It was an extremely stressful and exhausting day, but in the end (with a fridge stuck in the middle of our dining area and kitchen, a leaky water line downstairs, and my usually easy-going husband frazzled), we still have so much to be thankful for.

We weren’t feeling joy for most of the day, and it got even worse when late at night our water heater started leaking.

But I realized that these are such “first world problems”. They also don’t hold a candle to the pain that so many are facing in these days.

Whether it seems big or small, stresses and difficulties will come as long as we live.

So how do we count it all joy?

One of my favorite scripture passages comes to mind:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13, NIV

When things don’t go as planned…..we can count it as joy.

In the middle of a crisis…..we can count it as joy.

If we feel discouraged, anxious or depressed…..we can still count it as joy.

When the prognosis is bleak or we are in physical pain…..we can count it as joy.

In our times of deepest loss, grief or loneliness…..we can count it as joy.

When we feel afraid or like we don’t have what it takes…..we can count it as joy.

Whatever life throws at us, whether it seems big or small, we can count it as joy because we have hope. We know a God who will never leave us, who walks with us or carries us through every trial and joy, and who has given his very life for us.

He came long ago on that first Christmas bringing tidings of great joy.

When we trust that each moment in our life has purpose and can cause us to grow, we have a reason to find joy in every circumstance.

So whatever you face this Christmas, be it happy or hard, won’t you count it all as joy with me?

*****

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?

 

 

 

hot pink mums

Learning to Enjoy God’s Will

hot pink mums

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday on the prompt, “Enjoy”.

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When I was a child, I often felt that to simply enjoy life was not the “holy” thing to do.  In my efforts to please God, I often thought if it wasn’t hard I must not really doing the right thing. I knew I needed to be willing to sacrifice in order to do His will.

Now there is a truth there. Being a Christian does mean I’ve made a choice to give my life to God, live by his standards and instructions, and follow his plan for my life. It may even be difficult (no actually, it will sometimes be difficult), and at times requires sacrifice.

But the longer I am alive, I am starting to understand that just because I enjoy something doesn’t mean I’m being selfish.

Could it actually be that the God who created me; the One who designed me and formed me in my mother’s womb, planning my days before I was even born, gave me desires that would align with his perfect plan for my life?

 

“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.”

Psalm 139:13-16, NLT

This is a hard lesson for one with a natural bent towards seeing the “shoulds” much easier in life that the “want to’s”. I am even guilty of reflecting this thought to those around me whom I love.

But I am even now discovering that although there will always be hardships, God really does want me to enjoy my life.  He designed me with a purpose that fits me so well, as I learn to walk in it I will be more happy and satisfied because I’m living out the real “me”.

There will still be times of hardship, suffering, discipline and even sacrifice, but even then I will maintain that deep joy that comes from knowing I’m exactly where He wants me to be.

God, help me to enjoy the person you’ve made me to be, and to live out the purpose you have for me. Don’t let me waste the gifts, strengths and personality you’ve given me by trying to live someone else’s life.  Let me enjoy doing the good you’ve called me me to do.

Amen.

*****

Do you feel like doing God’s will is hard, or are you able to step out in your gifts and talents and enjoy doing the good purposes for which you were created?

fall sunlight through trees with barn

To Those Who Are Hurting

 

fall sunlight through trees with barn

I see so many around me hurting.

Some of them I know, and some are still strangers, but they’re out there.

We’ve just come through a tumultuous election and it seems the discord, dislike and distrust are still rampant. There are many with fears and those who seem to have lost hope.

darkening sky at sunset

But I know many who are experiencing an even greater sadness. Recently, they have lost someone dear to them.

More than one family that I know are living in the aftermath of an unexpected loss of a loved one. And that is one of the hardest griefs to bear.

fall field grass

We sang this song in worship on Sunday. I was ministering with our worship team, so I heard and sang it over and over.

And when I got home, I realized there was a message of hope and help in it that could bring some small healing to the hearts of those I care about.

Listen to this version of, “Lord I Need You”.

The lyrics, “I need you; oh, I need you” are a familiar refrain to many of us who have sung them from our youth.

But they are ever true.

sun hitting bare tree branches against blue sky

When we are experiencing a loss or in the midst of grieving we may feel this “need” more acutely, but in reality it’s always present.

I am reminded of the wise words of one of the former presidents of the Bible college I attended.

He was a stately man of Welsh decent, and had a gift for articulating thoughts in such a meaningful way. He was the type of man who could speak truth so succinctly that it would give you something to think about for days, and even stay with you for life.

One such time was in chapel after we had just sung the words of an old chorus, “As the Deer“, which come from the scripture in Psalms 42:1.

“As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee”

You can read the story behind that chorus here.

barn and pasture in late afternoon sun

Our president shared that the intent of the scripture wasn’t that the deer waits until it’s almost too late or it’s been without water so long that it can barely go on, but that the deer desperately needs the consistency of water every day of it’s life.

So are we with God.

We may feel our need for God more passionately in times of stress, hardship and pain, but what the Bible is getting at is that we need God and his Word in our lives always.

It needs to be as the food we eat and the air we breathe.

And just as all living things need water to live, so we will die without him in our lives.

He is our Source, our Comfort, our Strength, and our Song. He leads us and goes before us, carries us when we are weak, gives us the strength and wisdom to carry on, and stays with us at all times.

If you are in a season of uncertainty or pain, let me leave you with a few lines from “Lord I Need You”.

 

“Without you I fall apart.

You’re the one who guides my heart.”

 

Every hour I need you.”

 

“When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You.

Jesus, you’re my hope and stay.”

 

Our hope has never been in the people who lead the country, nor in the circumstances of our lives.

My prayer for you is that in your greatest hour of urgency as well as in your daily need, you will call out to God, let yourself fall on him, and put your trust in His mighty, unending, sacrificial love for you.

 

*****

 

trail in woods with morning sun

Journey

trail in woods with morning sun

Today’s post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up on the prompt, “journey”.

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Life is made of so many journeys.

Some are happy and joy-filled and some are difficult and laced with pain.

  • The journey of a small embryo as he/she grows into a full-size baby.
  • That painful journey from the safety and darkness of our mother’s womb into the bright but scary real world.
  • Our early childhood and formative years.
  • The tumultuous journey from childhood to adulthood, called adolescence.
  • Our journey of learning through education.
  • The journey of career training and job choices.
  • Many journeys of relationships, especially if one chooses to marry.
  • The ever-challenging, yet abundantly rewarding  journey of having and raising children, if we dare.

There are journeys within these journeys of life as well; emotional and mental journeys made up of experiences and our reactions to them, among other factors.

But one journey stands out to me most: my spiritual journey.

That is the path that leads me through life, either towards or far away from God.

This is the journey that I chose to prioritize, even though it is unseen.

It is the journey that will affect me the most, and bring hope and healing or hurt and pain to those around me.

Thankfully, I have a Guide and a guidebook to help me along the path.

 

Psalm 23 (NLT)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

*****

 

drinks, vegetables, fruit, and snacks

Eat

drinks, vegetables, fruit, and snacksThis post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where different bloggers will briefly write their thoughts about the prompt, “eat”.

*****

“Mom! What is there to eat?”

Sound familiar?

Well, what is there?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I eat lately, especially since I’m in the midst of a seven-day fitness/meal plan challenge, intended to jump-start a balanced, healthy regimen by exercising (longer than normal!), and eating a balanced, nutritious diet.

It’s easy for our kids…..OK, for us adults, too….. to just grab the easiest or most appealing snack and shove it in our mouths. In the busyness of life, it’s hard and takes discipline and planning to eat in a healthy way.

It’s more work to cook healthy meals and snacks from real, wholesome food, than to grab an expensive, pre-packaged snack or wolf down a handful of greasy, nutrition-void chips.

It’s all about choices.

We must choose our priorities, and plan to make them a reality.

So it is with our spirits.

We can browse aimlessly online, on social media, or in front of the television. We can wander nonchalantly through our favorite store, being tempted by things we don’t need or are not good for us or for our budgets.

As a slight disclaimer, I am in no way bashing the tools of technology such as social media, TV, etc., and am not suggesting that relaxing by shopping are always bad activities. They just require discipline.

What I am suggesting, even challenging us with, is to chose how we spend our time. Chose what we look at, devour, or even “nibble on” in our lives. We must mindfully consider what we are allowing to enter our minds, hearts, and our spirits.

We often tell our children the illustration about the two dogs inside of us: the vicious, self-serving, mean and unruly one; or the kind, gentle, loving, disciplined and faithful one…..and encourage them to feed the right dog. That is the animal that will get bigger, stronger, and take over our life.

Today, let’s be intentional, and choose what we eat wisely.

*****