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.

*******

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!

*******

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?

roof and clouds sky photo

When You Don’t Feel Ready for a New Year

Early each January or often even in the late December days between Christmas and New Year’s I see so many posts, photos, and stories in blogs and in my favorite social media feeds talking about goals and plans for the new year.

And each year I think I feel about the same.

While I commend and sometimes marvel at these goals, the carefully chosen focus words for the year to come, and perfect plans shared for our encouragement, I am seldom there yet.

While I am trying to live my life with more intention and fully embrace making goals and plans to succeed in the new year, I usually find myself feeling sad and behind. I hope to be there with my word for the year and some well-laid plans soon, but right now I’m still stuck between my favorite holiday and a fresh, yet slightly intimidating new start.

My mind tells me I should be thinking about starting a new year and planning to do things differently, leaving the holidays far behind, but I can’t quite get there yet.

For one thing, my family and I love to celebrate clear through New Year’s Day. My family has always made a big deal about Christmas and loved all of our traditions. In my books, the party isn’t over until well after January 1st. The Christmas tree doesn’t come down until just before the scheduled special trash pick up about one week into January.

Most years I am still trying to squeeze in a few more fun holiday moments, while simultaneously feeling pushed headlong into something different and new. I usually experience some melancholy moments as well, especially with the still-too-short days where often the sun isn’t shining.

I have almost always just said “good-bye” to my parents as either they or we embark on our five hundred mile drive home again. If we’re lucky, we’re also parting with my sister and family, but our reality is that most years we have to accept that we had to celebrate “together” from afar (our parents usually deliver our gifts back and forth), and that we won’t see each other until sometime in the summer.

It’s hard to love a holiday and my family so much and live too far away and have to wait another whole year.

The other thing holding me back is this. I know that there were many good experiences and some growth and accomplishments in 2018, but it’s easier to remember the apparent failures; the long list of things I didn’t finish or what I don’t feel I did well. Life seldom turns out the way I had planned and I am that imperfect human, after all.

So I’m not ready to spoil my last few precious moments or force my mind to turn a corner just yet. I’m still stuck somewhere in between, while by all appearances, the rest of the world has moved on to a productive and spectacular new year.

I am contemplating a focus word for the year and what I may like to do differently. But I don’t yet have the energy to try to figure out intricate plans, make big, important commitments and force myself into a well-planned new year just yet.

And I cannot think that I am the only one.

I am here to tell us that it’s OK.

Let’s allow ourselves some grace, slow down life’s tempo, and ease into 2019 gently.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out, nor do I have studies to show you that this is the best way to plan your life or your year, but I am sure that we’ll be all right if we don’t have it all figured out by January 1 (or even January 15th).

As I do slowly look towards 2019, here are some ideas that may help all of us who are not feeling quite ready for a new year:

1.Celebrate a little more if you need to.

I know there are some folks who are ready to pull down the decorations, throw out the turkey, take down their tree, set new goals, and start a diet or cleanse on the day after Christmas, but that is not happening at our house. If you are one like me who likes to celebrate into the new year and then some, go for it! It will be over 350 days until the Christmas season rolls around again, so what’s the rush to get it over with?

I would rather celebrate “the real 12 days of Christmas”, beginning with the advent season and continuing through Epiphany. That feels about right to me.

And when we finally get that first “real” snow (not counting the light and brief snowfall we had sometime in October), I plan to to turn on my outdoor Christmas lights and celebrate the sparkle against snowflakes.

2. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are actually feeling.

One thing I am getting better at, especially as I get older, is to allow myself to just feel what I’m feeling. I’m not suggesting that I should necessarily stay there (especially if it’s not so positive), but recognizing what I’m feeling is necessary and healthy. While my personality immediately tries to tell me that I shouldn’t be feeling something, the reality is, I am feeling it.

Denying or ignoring our emotional state is seldom helpful and will likely cause hurt and more pain down the road to ourselves and those around us.

3. Quiet your body, mind and soul.

We all need more quiet.

Especially in our culture which seems to thrive on and often glorify productivity and busyness, we need to be intentional about rest.

We need to choose to stop, opt for quiet, and fight for peace for ourselves and our families.

Sometimes calming or inspirational music can help, but there are also times where we just need the rarity of absolute silence. If you are a person of faith, be sure to pray, but also allow times of stillness. We need this space to listen to what God might be saying to us and to pay attention to the truth-telling rhythms of our hearts.

The words of blogger and author Emily P. Freeman often calm, encourage and inspire me. Both her written and spoken words have been a balm to my soul. I found her recent podcast, A Blessing for the New Year , so helpful and comforting that I listened to it every single day for the first week of January. Perhaps it will encourage you as well.

4. Start with gratitude.

Although we need to recognize and allow ourselves our feelings, don’t let yourself stay in a negative frame of mind. I may naturally tend towards the glass being half empty, but I cannot allow myself to live in that mentality.

I need to constantly find gratefulness, for there are blessings all around us, if only we will choose to see. I’m sure most of us have heard and read about how healthy it is to choose to be thankful. Keeping a gratitude journal, singing songs of praise or thanks, speaking positive and grateful words, learning to focus on the good, and working at changing negative thinking are all ways we can become more joyful and positive.

5. Do something you enjoy to celebrate the new year and to help you transition.

I’m not just talking about your New Year’s Eve celebrations, although that could be a good place to start. A quiet, cozy night at home with family or a fun night out with friends may help to lift your mood.

But don’t stop just because the winter day doesn’t have a special holiday name. Create some fun memories around the change of the new year such as rearranging your home and decor after the decorations are put away or getting a pretty new journal or planner. Go out on a date or plan a girl’s night out. Scour some after-Christmas sales or begin decluttering a section of your home.

6. Enlist the help and accountability you need and begin to make a plan.

At some point, it is definitely time to move forward.

You don’t have to do it according to everyone else’s schedule, but it’s healthy and encouraging to be intentional about how we live and spend our time. It’s something that is a work in progress for me, yet I know it’s important and leads to a more fulfilling life.

I’m not naturally highly motivated, although I do like organization and am stubborn enough to hold myself accountable for many actions and habits I feel are important. But I often struggle to use my time well or do the hard things. So I need a little help.

There are countless blog posts, podcasts, books and articles that offer good advice and helpful tips to help us to step boldly into the new year. We can learn how to make realistic goals with good action steps, live more intentionally, declutter and organize. create a personal exercise program and cultivate a more healthy, balanced life.

A couple of my favorite folks who blog and share wonderful help for realistic productivity are Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom and Beth Anne Schwamberger of Brilliant Business Moms. One of my favorite blogs for home organizing tips and encouragement is Abby Organizes. I’ve also enjoyed learning about planning and organizing from Laura of I Heart Planners. And my favorite online fitness instructor is Robin Long of The Balanced Life, who teaches Pilates and runs an online subscription program. I’ve been part of the Sisterhood for over two years now, and it’s helped me be consistent with exercise and make other healthy choices with a group of like-minded, encouraging women all over the world.

Yes, sometimes we need to push ourselves and do difficult things in order to grow and improve our lives, so create some accountability. Join an online group or challenge or simply agree with a family member or friend to check in with each other regularly to see how you’re doing.

7. Treat yourself kindly and give yourself lots of grace.

In all of the planning and “doing”, don’t forget to give yourself lots of grace! We were never meant to be perfect and a successful life does not consist of the things we do or get done.

Growth and change can be healthy, but we need to first accept who we are and our unique gifts, as well as our flaws and weaknesses. They are part of what makes us human and are formative in our life journeys. The difficulties we struggle through truly do make us stronger. And our personal growth and success won’t look exactly like that of anyone else.

In this past week alone I’ve been reminded twice already to be gentle with myself and to be content with the imperfect person that I am. Once was in a podcast from one of my favorite podcasters and the second was part of a sermon at church. I believe this is a good place to start as we head into a brand new year.

*******

Now that it’s already half way through the month, I’m beginning to feel more ready for the new year.

I don’t have all my plans and goals figured out, but I’m preparing to move ahead with joy and hope. I’ve been thinking and praying about what to focus on this year and am starting to want to make changes and plans. I may not be there yet, but I’m moving in the right direction.

I still have decorations to put away this week, lots of Christmas ham to use up in the freezer, and more persistent pine needles to clean off of the floor.

I have changes to make, goals to plan, and dreams to dream for this year.

But I will endeavor to be as kind and gracious to myself as I would be with someone else.

I cannot share the good gifts inside of me with the world unless I am taking care of myself first.

So as we tentatively step into a new year, may 2019 be a year of intentional growth and change. But may it always be tempered with lots of grace, healthy rest, and joy and contentment for all of us. Maybe we’ll even find a little excitement in this new year.

*******

wheat grass, cat grass, kitties

The Things We Want to Share

wheat grass, cat grass, kitties

Today I’m joining in with the bunch at Five Minute Friday, where the prompt of the day is share.

*****

Since we were little we learned that it is good to share.

As a mom of two sons and eventually a teacher’s aide, I often taught the art of sharing.

 

But as an adult, I now realize that there are some things that we do not want to share.

Nasty cold germs.

Financial problems due to poor decisions or lack of self-control.

A life’s worth of clutter for others to clean up after I die.

Days filled with too much complaining.

Constant words of criticism.

 

These are just a few of the things we should keep to ourselves (or in many cases, get help or change!).

 

But there are many positive things we want to share with those we find around us.

A smile.

A cheery or encouraging word.

A message of hope.

Special and thoughtful gifts (big or small).

Sincere empathy, thoughts and prayers.

A helping hand.

Even a loving but gentle rebuke (spoken in love to someone to which we have become close and earned the right).

Good advice.

A listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

 

It may cost us something, but often it doesn’t have to.

But we will gain far more than we give.

So let’s share the good things.

Let’s bless another, and in turn, be blessed.

These are the things we want to share.

*****

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list? This is just a start.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

*****

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?

*****

What to Do When You Feel Stuck

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word prompt of the week is stuck.

*****

When I read the word “stuck” as our word prompt for this week’s link-up, it immediately resonated with me.

It wasn’t a completely encouraging realization, but it helped me to understand how I’ve been feeling lately.

We had a crazy year last year in some ways. I had a finger injury and surgery in the spring (which was a big deal for this non-medical-procedure-loving person), and then my husband had heart bypass surgery in the fall (which was obviously a much bigger deal!).

While I’m thankful that both my little surgery and my husband’s big surgery resulted in good recovery and improved health (it literally probably saved his life!), I’ve felt behind and overwhelmed since then. Even though, overall, things are going well, it seems like I’m still catching up.

I’ve felt like I can’t get ahead with decluttering, cleaning and organizing my home, my blog has been somewhat neglected as of late, and it seems like we’re just getting by in a lot of ways. I’ve been experiencing some different emotions lately and trying to figure them out as well. I think it’s just the “leftovers” from a trying year.

I wrote a post awhile back about what to do when your emotions are fickle, and I often realize I should read some of my own words for encouragement.

One day this week when the sun finally came out and I felt some spring warmth, it really lifted my spirits. I read some encouraging words of truth and that also helped me feel so much better. My husband and I completed one month of a good, healthy diet, and that made me feel good both physically and emotionally.

Sometimes we feel “stuck” for big, important reasons, and at other times, we can’t find a reason for our feelings or we struggle to understand exactly why.

So I’m writing this to myself, in the hopes that perhaps it will help someone else who’s feeling “stuck”, too.

These are some of the things that help me when I’m feeling “stuck”:

  1. Read or listen to some encouraging words of truth, and pray. – If you read the bible and pray, you will be reminded of how God feels about you and of his promises. Don’t forget to be quiet and listen as well. If you are not a believer, you can read something that lifts your spirits and/or reminds you of how special you are. You can also meditate on all you have for which to be thankful.
  2. Listen to music and/or do something life-giving. – Most of the time, a little good music goes a long way to helping me to feel better. I also find that doing something creative makes me feel alive. Spending some time outside in nature really feeds my soul.
  3. Spend time with those you love and/or those who are good at what you’re struggling with. – Being with people who like you always seems to help emotionally, and if I can chat with someone who’s been where I am or can help me with my problem, that is precious.
  4. Take a baby step. – Just do one thing to move in the right direction. This is so true of decluttering and cleaning, but works in most situations. Doing “the next right thing” can help us go from “stagnant and stuck” to at least progressing in our area of difficulty.
  5. Ask for and accept help when needed. – Sometimes we can’t do it alone. Whether it be a loved one, a trusted friend or even a professional, sometimes we just need a little help. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re imperfect and need support.
  6. Take care of yourself. – Often we are just in need of a good sleep or a nap, we need to take a break or even a vacation, or we can simply be hungry or thirsty. Sometimes we can boost our TLC with a healthy diet and some exercise. We aren’t any good to anyone else when we are not caring for ourselves.
  7. Give yourself grace. – This doesn’t mean to stay in a non-productive or negative state, but it’s OK to be nice to ourselves and recognize that there are times when we need time to process, think or heal.

These are just a few tips that I will continue to try to put into practice.

If we make even a small effort to do something positive, we will not remain stuck for long.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue and pink sunset

All The Other Things

Blue and pink sunset

 

This post has been written for the Five Minute Friday link-up (even though it’s not Friday), where the word prompt of the week is other.

*****

Sometimes it seems my life is consumed by all the other things.

Does this happen to you? At the end of many a day, I realize (and sometimes complain aloud), that the thing I really wanted to get done didn’t happen.

I know I’m not alone. And I know it’s not easy.

But I desire to do more with my days than just all the other things.

Yes, I know that life is busy, and that responsibilities require us to give much of our time to things that may seem mundane, yet we need to find a way to do the things that matter.

Of course there are circumstances and seasons where we have little to no choice. Having a new baby or more than one young child, being the sole provider for your family, nursing a sick loved one…..these are all legitimate times when we may have to really sacrifice for a time, just to survive. (And I hope if you’re in a place like this, you reach out for help and accept it gratefully and with no guilt.)

But in our “normal” lives, we need to create space for thought & relaxation, find time for activities that fulfill us, and do something that gives us life.

So take care of your other responsibilities, but make sure you fit the “big” things in, too. Do the things that really matter and make a difference in your life, and be sure that some of them bring you pleasure and joy.

It may feel selfish to spend time on ourselves, but if we do, we will find we are better equipped to help the others in our 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.

*****

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.

*****

 

 

coffee and computer

YouVersion Half Year Challenge 2017

coffee and computer

 

Do you need a little encouragement to read the Bible? Are you feeling like your quiet time has felt a little stale? Or perhaps you just wish to try a new devotional to change things up a little?

Well, you’re in luck! YouVersion just started a challenge to help us along the way.

All we have to do is complete 7 consecutive days of any of their wonderful Bible plans to participate.

You can use any existing plan (no need to start over), start a new plan or plans (one or more than one). Just be sure to check off each day that you’ve completed the day’s reading and be sure to share using the hashtag #HalfYearResolution (and be sure to change your settings to “pubic” for the share to social media).

There are prizes to be won (just follow the simple instructions to share), and a badge to add to your YouVersion accomplishments.

I realize that there are many good ways to spend time reading and studying the Bible, but I love the Bible app to remind me each day with a daily scripture and many different plans to help me to be more consistent in reading my Bible each day.

I hope you will join me in this year’s YouVersion 2017 Half Year Challenge, and jump-start your Bible reading today.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

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.

*****

 

 

Dayspring Fullness of Grace ecard

One Way I Celebrate Thanksgiving All Year Long

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.

####################################################################################################

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

####################################################################################################

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, but instead decided to take a special photo each day and post her gratitude visually with an apt description on Instagram or Facebook. 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?