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.

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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?

 

 

 

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.

*****

 

five-minute clock photo

What Can I Do in Five Minutes?

five-minute clock photo

Today’s post is for the link-up of five-minute, (mostly) unedited writings at Five Minute Friday. Enjoy!

*****

Five minutes.

It isn’t very long. (Just ask me and other bloggers who are attempting to keep these posts to that short time limit!)

Perhaps because I’m being challenged in the area of time management, I feel inspired to write about five minutes (for the prompt of the word “five” today).

What can I do in five minutes?

I have a LOT of five-minute increments in each and every day, but how can I use them?

I can “waste” time browsing on social media (not that I consider all social media time a waste), I can mope around or wander aimlessly without a plan, I can get distracted or focus on the difficult or challenging things in my life.

I could wolf down a few handfuls of chips or unhealthy snacks.

I can chose to feel badly about myself or my situation, or just plain loose track of time.

That precious five minutes.

But I can be intentional.

I can make a choice.

I can spend five minutes reflecting on things for which I’m thankful.

I can pray and think and plan. I can write a to-do list.

I could spend five minutes doing “nothing”, but using the time to rest and rejuvenate my body, emotions, mind or spirit.

I could write that email, mail that card, make that phone-call.

Maybe I can put away five minutes of clutter or take a baby-step for that big project I’ve been procrastinating.

I could make something healthy to eat for myself or to share with my family.

Other options may include five minutes of exercise, writing a quick post on my blog, starting (or switching) the laundry, wiping down a bathroom, or watering my plants.

I can share a smile, give a compliment, or say something to encourage someone around me.

The choice is up to me.

I pray that I learn not to waste my five minutes.

When you put a whole lot of five-minutes increments together…..it becomes a life.

*****

What Can You Do in Five Minutes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

looking up at my house with flag

Habits That Build Our House

looking up at my house with flag

Welcome to another edition of “Five Minute Friday“, a post I write in approximately five minutes, with little to no editing to link up with other bloggers on the Heading Home blog. Our host, Kate Motaung, provides us with a one-word prompt each week, about which we are to write our thoughts. It is a good challenge for me to think and pray briefly, then write what I feel led to write, without a lot of second-guessing and correcting. It requires creativity with discipline, which helps me to grow as a person and a blogger.

Because of other responsibilities I have today, I will really try to adhere to the five-minute time-limit. Please check out the link-up page to view a variety of other interesting and thought-provoking posts by other bloggers.

 

Today’s word prompt:

BUILD

 

Today’s theme is “build”. I’d like to start by sharing the first scripture that comes to mind when I think of the word, “build”:

 

“Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.
 It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

Psalm 127:1,2 (NLT)

These words let us know that whatever we do, it will not be successful without direction and vision from God. So first and foremost, let’s remember that left to our own devices our plans may fail, but with God all things are possible. I need to be about his business and doing what he has created me to do in order to have a truly fulfilling and purposeful life.

But there is a responsibility on my part to do something practical too, and that’s what I’d like to focus on today.

I’m thinking about habits, and how they can make or break me; how they cause me to have peace and productivity or stress and regret.

My habits are an example to my children and to all those around me in my circle of influence.

I personally feel called to work on my habits and improve on using my time in an intentional way.

We only have one life to live, and despite the challenges and hard parts, it can be wonderful if I follow God’s path for me and find his purpose for my life. Then I need a plan and the discipline to carry it out.

I can be about my own business and either fail miserably or even appear successful, but be building a house that crumbles and falls. Or I can build something meaningful that will last.

When we offer up our lives, our days, and our plans to God, he will be faithful to see us through.

With God’s help, I can truly build a life that leaves a positive mark and makes a difference.

I chose to build a house that will last.

*****

 

 

my desk area and computer

Top 12 Reasons that Connecting Online is Super Beneficial

my desk area and computer

My space. 🙂

Well, I just finished another webinar, and I must say, I’M SO INSPIRED!

I had to add the word, “super” to my post title, because I was so motivated and excited by what I had just learned and the connections that were made.

You see, I haven’t been blogging very long (almost six months, which may sound like a long time, but I still mostly feel like a newbie). I’ve participated in around five webinars, and the one I just attended was hosted by two well-known bloggers, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom and Abby Lawson of Just A Girl and Her Blog. This particular session was about writing good content for your blog.

I know that most of you are not necessarily bloggers, so why am I sharing all this?

I just wanted to share that I’m realizing more and more how inspiring it is to encourage others and be encouraged online!

Now let me just clear something up. I’m not suggesting that online contact and relationships can take the place of “real” (live, in the flesh), relationships…

BUT….I am suggesting that you actually can develop, help to maintain and re-connect relationships online…for real!

I’ll use my husband as an example. My dear husband is a definite “techy”. He has done (and does now), sales and other types of jobs, but has always loved and been good at computer-related stuff. He actually launched and still runs his own SEO business, and has built and worked on websites. It’s his second job right now, but is probably his first love (in job world, that is; I’M his first love in real life 🙂 ). He also likes to spend some of his free time playing online video games.

Well, guess what? My husband has met many people online, some of which he’s actually gotten together with over time….and one of his very best friends (I will refrain from calling him a “bff”, for fear of it sounding really “girly”), he originally met online. Either that or they met in business, and then got to know each other online.

Anyway, all that is to say that you really can get to know someone through the web!

Now I’ll tell you my experience.

I’m am definitely “tech-challenged”, but am learning more each day. I was originally scared to join Facebook; in fact, my first photo was really unclear because I was so timid about putting my photo out there where “all the world” could see. But since the day my account was opened, I’ve loved it! (I guess this is the extroverted part of my “ambivert” personality.)

Through Facebook, I have stayed far better connected with my own family (from my parents and sister, to many of my extended family members), and with friends both far and near. I communicate with those from my original home in Ontario, with people with whom I currently go to church, with those with whom I’ve worked in the past many years of jobs, and with those who attended college with me, etc. I’ve also had a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with several high school friends with whom I probably never would have talked in the past twenty years….if it weren’t for Facebook.

I also mentioned these few webinars I’ve attended (online, of course). I have learned so much from the sessions , but I’ve also connected with others on the side. When I say, “on the side, I literally mean that. The “chat” feature which appears on the right side of the webinar video allows listeners to ask questions and make comments during the webinar, but also to share back and forth amongst themselves. In this way, I received some good advice and encouragement from many other wonderful blogging “friends” participating in the webinar, and hope to connect with some of them on their blogs soon!

What I’m trying to say is this:

Would it be better and more personal to get together and talk face to face, to be able to actually reach out and touch someone in the flesh, send a handwritten card or note, get on the phone and really hear someone’s voice, or spend time in a group with “real” live people at church, work, or at some other social event?

Yes, of course!

Is that always practical in my real, average, busy life (to reach out to all of these people I’ve mentioned)?

Absolutely not!

Communication through our various devices will never take the place of being together in person, but it will allow us to connect far more often and with many more people than we would have otherwise.

 

I don’t know about you, but I live here in the real world.

To summarize, I’d like to share with you my top reasons that I believe make connecting online beneficial.

Prayer & Bible reading, Exercise (Pilates & other), Drink water, "Me" time (read, photos, blog).

Day #3 – My personal goals for this month.

Top 12 Reasons that Connecting Online is Super Beneficial:

  1. It’s quick, easy and very accessible!
  2. You can connect almost any time of the day or night.
  3. It’s possible to keep in contact with those you don’t regularly see, or who live too far away to visit.
  4. You can meet new people, both as personal and business acquaintances.
  5. You can be an encouragement and help to others in a myriad of ways.
  6. It’s a good place to gain access to information, tools, and encouragement for yourself.
  7. Connecting online is a great way to both challenge and support others, and to be challenged to learn and grow in areas of your own life.
  8. Social media is a great tool for sharing prayer requests and answers to problems and needs.
  9. Technology can provide an outlet for our creativity and a place to be refreshed and/or inspired.
  10. Photos can be shared with friends and loved ones and viewed almost immediately.
  11. It’s possible to make an income from so many different online sources.
  12. It’s fun!!!

 

Bible, journal and tea

Quiet Time

Just one more note of some importance:

Of course, just like almost any other tool, social media and other online methods of connecting can be a distraction or a hindrance to our responsibilities in real life. In other words, in can easily become a waste of our precious time. Worst case scenario, in rare cases online games and relationships can become a form of “living in a fantasy world”, or be used to harm yourself or others.

But I do not for one minute think that this negates all of the positive points I’ve discussed in this post. In almost every area of our lives, we are called to think (and pray), research, and evaluate whether or not a given action is beneficial to our lives (and the lives of those we love). We need to decide how much or how little time should be given to each activity or task, and to exercise discipline in using any tool available to us.

I may not do it perfectly, but I choose to use all of the “modern” forms of technology in a balanced way, in order to grow in areas of my own life, to help my family and those I love, and to share help and encouragement with others as well.

This blog is one of those outlets for me, and I sincerely pray that it will help, encourage or inspire you, or at least provide a little respite for all of my friends who chose to read it.

*****

What are your feelings towards online tools such as social media? Have you found “modern technology” to be more helpful or more of a hindrance in your life? Do you have anything to share that has helped you to use technology in a more disciplined way?

 

 

 

 

Our bunny in our yard by the rhododendrons

Seven Things I Learned in May 2016

Our bunny in our yard by the rhododendrons

“Our” bunny (who lives in my yard).

 

I’m both excited and feel privileged to share my second month of “What I Learned” with you, my readers, as well as to link up with Emily Freeman’s blog for this fun and informational occasion.

It’s a practice I’m learning how to make a habit, and hope that you find it beneficial as well.

So without further ado…..

 

Seven Things I Learned in May 2016:

 

1.  Although I enjoy getting to know new people and spending time with acquaintances, I need quality time with those I’m closest to, to fill my heart.

I have usually had at least one close friend in my life. When I was a child and then a teenager, I could do “anything”, as long as I had one of these special “best” friends by my side. As an adult, I have my husband as my best friend, but he can’t fulfill all of the “girlfriend” roles, so my close women friends have stepped up to the plate. (My husband and two sons thank you ladies, by the way!)

I find myself most comfortable with those I’m closest to, and find that I really need these close, more intimate “girlfriend” relationships in order to share some of my deepest thoughts and feelings.  It’s very fulfilling and encouraging to help each other in our pursuit of God’s will and obedience in our lives, and sometimes to just to kick back and have fun. I’m so thankful for these closer friendships in my life (“boss lady friends“, perhaps?), and pray that I’m as much of an encouragement to them as they are to me.

 

2.  Working in the heat is totally physically exhausting.

This summer, I am in one of my “transitional” jobs again. Since leaving my job of ten years as a teacher’s aide a couple of years ago, I feel like I’ve been “finding my way” in this next season of work. This summer, the opportunity arose for me to work at the farm (greenhouse work right now), where we purchase our farm shares. When I work in really warm settings (some greenhouses can get hot!), I am “toast” after about three hours. Even after I go home to clean up and cool down, I find I’m quite exhausted. I enjoy and appreciate the work, but am not cut out to be a full-time farmer!

Psalms 62.7

3.  I need to continue to learn to truly find my identity in Christ, not in what I do.

As I mentioned in point number two, lately I have been either unemployed or working in an entirely different part-time job to which I was accustomed. Both of these are situations in which I do not always feel comfortable. I believe it’s honorable to do hard physical labor, and know it’s a somewhat “normal” part of life to find yourself unemployed, but have found it difficult to feel proud of where I’m at right now. I turn fifty in a couple of weeks, and it feels like I should have my life all “figured out” (although I realize that’s not true). I finally realized that the main problem I’m having is associating my identity in what work I do (or don’t do, for pay that is, in the seasons of unemployment). In our culture where more women are expected to work outside of the home, I’m learning to find my identity not in what others think of me, but in Christ. Boy, this runs deep with me!

 

4. When you forget your chicken dogs on the grill for a couple of hours, they literally burn to a crisp.

I had the brilliant idea last week to “use up” some of the leftover heat from our charcoal grill to cook some chicken dogs for the next day. I assured my husband that he didn’t need to attend to them, but I would set a timer…..which I promptly forgot until a couple of hours later when I detected a distinct “burnt hot-dog” smell from outside.

 

2016-05-22 Chicken dogs burnt to a crisp (literally).

My chicken dogs, literally burnt to a crisp!

Interestingly, I now know where the expression, “burnt to a crisp” comes from, as they were not only thoroughly blackened, but also weighed next to nothing, as every last bit of moisture was cooked out of them!

 

5. I am a driving wimp.

I’ve never been comfortable driving places with which I’m not familiar, but am learning that I really do need to work on relying on my GPS and driving without fear. I can help drive across the country to visit my family in Canada, but will avoid driving in a city like the plague. A couple of years ago, before I owned a GPS, I got so hopelessly lost driving to meet some friends at one of their homes, that eventually someone had to drive out to meet me and “save” me. It really made me nervous, and I’m recognizing that I now have a greater fear which I need to overcome. God help me.

 

6. There is a new series by Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes.

My dear husband informed me of this new series available on Amazon video, which is written by the same producer as my all-time favorite show, Downton Abbey. It’s called Dr. Thorne, and I enjoyed watching the first episode just last night. There are four episodes in this first season which are available to view. Here’s the link for those of you who have Amazon Prime. I hope that you enjoy it!

 

7. One of my new favorite plants is Scented Geranium, otherwise known as something with which most of us are very familiar.

All this working in greenhouses is educating me more in the world of plants. I just discovered a new “favorite” plant at my workplace. It’s official name is Scented Geranium, but most of you (especially candle-loving) friends will know it by it’s common name, Citronella. I am learning that many familiar candle scents come from plants (another being Bergamot). If you’ve never smelled the wonderful lemony scent of a Citronella plant, you are missing a pleasurable experience! And the best thing is, it really is a deterrent to those pesky mosquitoes!

(***Note of correction: Upon further research, it appears that “citronella” is a different plant altogether, and the “citronella scented geranium” is one of many varieties of scented geranium plants. I’m also disappointed to report that claims that this plant actually repels mosquitoes  have been proven to be false. However, I’m still thrilled to have it in my garden for it’s attractive foliage and flowers that will come. Here are three articles to read for further information about the myth about scented geranium, how to grow and care for “mosquito plants”, and other mosquito repelling plants that work. Perhaps I should save this information for next month, as I technically learned these facts on June 1st. 🙂 ***)

Scented Geranium (Citronella) 2016-05-31

Scented Geranium (Citronella)

*****

Well, another month come and gone.

I’m coming to realize that you really do “learn something new every day”, or at least every month!

Thanks for joining me. Don’t forget to check out the interesting lists of Emily Freeman and many other wonderful blogging friends on her link-up page! (If you’re a blogger, I guess I’m officially inviting you, too.) 🙂

 

 

April daffodil in snow

Ten Things I Learned in April 2016

April daffodil in snow

Today I’m going to attempt something new.

I’m going to try out this, “What I Learned This Month” idea that so many bloggers are writing about. If it works out, with any luck, this still-feeling-like-a-newbie blogger will even stick my neck out and link up with some other bloggers on Emily Freeman’s blog.

I also had a similar challenge to reflect at month’s end from my new online Pilates instructor. She also provided us with a nice printable to record “what worked” and “what didn’t work” in one of her blog posts. It’s an invitation to consider how specific things are working (or not), in my life.

Thinking about and recording what I’ve learned in the past month seems like it could be a little fun, possibly challenging, a good way to get to know and interact with some other wonderful bloggers, and most of all, a helpful practice to introduce into my life. When we step back to observe and listen to God, ourselves, and those around us, we are bound to come away inspired, challenged, thankful, and changed.

So here I go.

 

What I Learned in April 2016 (in no particular order):

 

1. I really need my “girlfriends”.

I’ve always loved and felt comfortable with my close (girl-)friends, but since I’ve been home more lately and not out in a people-filled work environment, I feel like I’ve needed my “girlfriend time” more than ever. I love my wonderful three men (my husband, one young adult son, and one teen son), but they can only tolerate so many words (and I have a lot of words!). I so appreciate every time my guys make an effort to listen and spend some quality time with me, but I need more than they are built to give in this area of communication. I’ve been incredibly blessed in this season when I could tend to feel quite lonely (lots of “between jobs” time, and working less hours), with some quality and regular time with several different girlfriends and groups of women I love. Their support, understanding and advice both encourages and challenges me.

 

girlfriends around campfire 2015-08-01

2. Glass spray bottles are nice, but they break.

This just happened. I have three lovely glass spray bottles from one of my favorite companies. While using one to spray some homemade wrinkle releaser on my shirt this past week, it slipped out of my hand and smashed on my cement basement floor (leaving a pleasant lavender and vinegar scent, I might add). It was much prettier than my plastic bottles, but not so much when scattered across my laundry room floor in shards.

vinegar, water, spray bottle, essential oil

3. Being a wife, mother, and homemaker is really my number one job priority.

If this extended time at home has taught me anything, it has confirmed that I really do enjoy most aspects of being at home. My job as a wife, mother (even to older sons), and homemaker is still my number one priority job. I’ve never really been a true “career person”. Even jobs I’ve enjoyed have often overwhelmed me and added stress to my life when I found it difficult to get to some important responsibilities at home.

4. An acquaintance of mine is one of sixteen siblings!

You read that right. I just learned that someone I know has no less than fifteen brothers and sisters! I think that’s the biggest family I’ve learned of in my almost fifty years of life.

my desk area

5. I really can blog.

Sure, I’ve only been doing it for four months now, and moving along more slowly than many bloggers, but I can actually truthfully say, “I’m a blogger”, or, “I write a blog.” It still feels uncomfortable in some ways (especially to those outside the “blogging world”), but I also feel like a small part of a big and diverse, but like-minded group of people from all over the country and even the world. Cool.

6. Doing laundry with a washing machine and plumbing that works properly is almost a joy.

I recently got a “new” (refurbished), washing machine, as our really old one finally bit the dust. We had also been having some increasingly bad plumbing issues in conjunction with the section of pipes that affect the washer. It started when we had our main line cleared out about a year ago, and came to a head when we attempted to hook up the new washing machine hose to the pipes. It would not work without leaking.

For months prior to this, I was taking extra steps and time to get our clothes clean and dry due to these issues. After we finally got a plumber to fix things up for us, and hooked up our new machine, I can’t believe how much better it feels to do the laundry! I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but for now I’m actually mostly enjoying doing laundry (but don’t let it get around!).

Our "new" washing machine.

Our “new” washer.

7. I like Pilates better than I thought.

I’ve always been somewhat active, and done moderate exercise fairly regularly for years now. As for Pilates, I had only tried somewhat lengthy workouts. While they were thorough, they felt a bit too intense for me as a beginner. I found and took part in a thirty-day online challenge this March with instructor Robin Long, which was mainly comprised of ten-minute Pilates workouts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even with this short amount of dedicated time, I began to feel and see positive changes in my body. I can accomplish a short workout without too much stress, and I enjoy it much more. At the end of the month, I immediately joined Robin’s monthly subscription group and have enjoyed successfully completing another month with some longer workouts. I really like the camaraderie and encouragement of the Facebook group, where women from all over share both their struggles and their victories.

Pilates workout area, mat, cat 2016-03-23

8. Webinars can be fun and informational.

I tried my first few webinars; some live, and some just replays. They were all great forums in which to learn more about various subjects (usually blogging), but the live ones were really quite exciting! It felt more like being in a room with a crowd of listeners, rather than just watching a video online. I am really enjoying interacting with and learning from others through the miracle of technology.

9. Just because I don’t see any comments on my blog posts does not mean they’re not being seen.

Being a blogger of barely four months, I am still too excited by every little comment left on one of my posts. My busy, but helpful husband (who hosts my blog and generally educates and encourages me in such things), was only able to get to adding Google Analytics about a week ago.

I’ve had a “dry spell” as far as comments go for the last month or so, and I don’t have a big following yet, so I kind of assumed that meant that no one was visiting my blog or reading my posts.  I was feeling a little discouraged, and wondering if things were going poorly, when low and behold, my dashboard revealed that there is indeed someone out there finding my blog. It is both exhilarating and a little scary all at once.

mixed sky with tree silhouettes

10. I really love my church.

We’ve attended the same church for over twenty-five years now, so obviously we like it quite a bit. Recently, there were some pastoral changes, as our senior pastor made the wise decision to step down before the church “grew old” with him. Although we love and miss our former pastor, I’m finding myself more excited and convinced that this is where we are to be right now.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of as smooth and successful a transition as this one has been. We’re proud of all involved in leadership and the decision-making process, as well as the dedicated group of believers who call our church their home.  Although I don’t normally relish change, this one has been timely, and has made me appreciate both the old and new leadership for their unique contributions to this body. The changes seem to be what is needed in this season of our church’s growth. I am happy to be a part of such an effective group of Christians.

Christmas Eve service at Community Covenant Church 2015 - from Nathanael

Christmas Eve Service at Community Covenant Church (my husband Jon on guitar).

 

*****

Well, what do you know? I started this post wondering if I could come up with even five points, and ended with so many that I’ve decided to take several points and use them to start another post about what I’m learning in general in this season of my life!  I’ve really enjoyed taking this time to look back, and I think doing so regularly will benefit my life and help it to flourish.

I wonder what new things I have to look forward to learning in May?

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunlight in trees by water

What To Do When Your Emotions Are Fickle (10 Steps Towards Feeling Better)

sunlight in trees by water

Boy am I fickle sometimes.

I can ride the high of feeling happy, even to the point of giddiness, then in one fell swoop, sink to an emotional low, bordering even on feelings of depression.

Some of you know what I mean. If you are a woman, a middle-aged person, someone going through a difficult season, a teenager or pre-teen, dealing with too much non-stop responsibility, or one with a personality-type that tends to easily feel “melancholy”…….well, just about anyone…….you may have experienced this tendency too.

dark sky with bright clouds

So what do we do when our emotions are taking us on a roller-coaster ride of grand proportions? Here are some practical tips to help in times of emotional instability.

 

***Please note: If you are struggling beyond what is “normal” or expected in life, or can’t find the strength to even begin to move forward (with true feelings of depression), please visit your doctor or a professional to get the help you need. ***

 

10 Steps For When Your Emotions are Fickle:

1. Go back to what you know to be true.

Even if you’re not feeling it, you know certain things to be true. These facts can be an anchor for your soul. If you are a Christian, read your Bible and ask God to remind you of his promises. Dwell on good, true, positive thoughts.

Bible, journal and tea

Quiet Time

2. Practice gratitude.

Focus on the good. Think about, or better yet, record what you are thankful for. I try to consistently write in my “gratitude journal”, which I started after reading Ann VosKamp’s wonderful book, 1000 Gifts. Begin (or continue), a habit of being thankful for the little things, and life will look much better when viewed through a lens of gratitude.

 

3. Spend some time in peace and quiet.

Find at least a little quiet time. Make some time for yourself with no noise, responsibilities or distractions, even if it’s short or seems impossible. Send yourself to your room, lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes, step outside and breathe, light a candle, take a drive by yourself, go somewhere peaceful and just sit. Take time to listen to your own thoughts. If you pray, be sure to do that, but don’t forget to stop and listen, too.

votive candle

4. Take care of yourself physically.

Don’t deny the reality of how your physical health affects your emotional state! Get some sleep, take time to relax and rest, drink plenty of water, make healthy eating decisions, and/or get some exercise, and you will immediately begin to feel better emotionally. Take care of medical issues. Check with your doctor and/or do some good research, to decide if you need a little “boost” from supplements or natural remedies that are healthy and rarely have negative side effects.

quinoa with cinnamon, maple syrup and banana

cat on exercise mat

5. Don’t carry your burdens alone.

We were not created to live as hermits. We were designed to live and thrive in community, and it’s not a weakness to need to depend on others. Communicate with your family and loved ones about how you’re feeling, talk to a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor, and don’t let embarrassment stop you. Sometimes all we need is to someone to listen; other times a little direction or encouragement from others will make the difference in our emotional state.

*Added note: I’d love to add a brief comment here to suggest that not only do relationships help support healthy emotions, but they can even help to make us more successful in life. According to this interesting article, we would do well to lean on others, rather than insist on independently going it alone . *

6. Take a baby step.

Often, our stress and emotional lows are partially based on feeling overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities, or things we have not accomplished. Whether its organization or cleaning in your home, or something you need to get done for work or another important commitment, just take the next right step for now. You don’t need to accomplish everything at once, but even a little step will help to motivate you and move you in the right direction, giving you the strength to take one more the next time. Remember that you “eat an elephant” one bite at a time.

 

7. Establish boundaries.

I think everyone should read Dr. Henry Cloud’s life-changing book called Boundaries.  It’s a topic we all need to understand and embrace, because boundaries are healthy and necessary for everyone! We need to embrace our own responsibilities, but let go of those that are not our own. Whether it is an emotional boundary or a practical one, don’t be afraid to say “no” or set reasonable limits for yourself and others, and learn to communicate them clearly.

8. Listen to some quality music.

This could have been combined with my next and last point, but I decided that it’s effective and important enough to list separately. Music is powerful, and can help encourage us and lift our spirits. Positive lyrics and peaceful or joyful music can help to change our mood and move us towards a better attitude and choices. Listen to this song, “Where I Am Right Now”, as an example of a good, encouraging song for those who find themselves in hard times.

reflection in water near falls

9. Get out! 

This also can fall into some other categories, but I think is worth mentioning on it’s own. Nature and the outdoors was created for our pleasure. It is unnatural and unhealthy to stay inside all the time and not get outdoors. We need the fresh air and sun (and a natural dose of vitamin D), as well as just to not feel cooped up indoors for too long. Take a long (or even a short) walk, go on a hike, play with your dog, go for a bike ride, or just sit and breathe in the goodness.

10. Do something fun!

While it is important to take serious steps to make yourself feel better and to address important issues in your life, sometimes a little enjoyment can go a long way towards helping you to feel better. Do something you love, express yourself in creativity, read a good book, work on a hobby, watch an enjoyable television show or movie, play a family board or card game, run around with your kids, jump in a lake, have a good cup or tea or coffee, build a snowman, and/or eat ice-cream! (Yes, I know; I just told you to “make healthy eating choices”, but a little splurge once in awhile is OK and necessary, too.)

 

It’s amazing how even doing a little of something you really enjoy can completely change your mood. It’s OK to take a break from life’s responsibilities and hardships and enjoy some good, clean fun!

votive candle

 

 

While it’s natural and normal to feel the ups and downs of fluctuating emotions, there are things we can do to help stabilize our feelings. These tips can help us to move forward in positive ways in our lives and give us strength and motivation to deal with more important issues. Here’s to “smoothing out” our fickle emotions!

*****

Do you struggle with the ups and downs of emotions? What do you do to care for yourself when your emotions are lacking? Do you have any tips to add that you have found helpful?