One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

The Worth of a Father

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

Dad watching his upside-down daughters (I’m the older one), as we climbed a mountain trail on family vacation.

Today I’m joining the crowd at the Five Minute Friday link-up (a little later, obviously, since it’s Sunday already). The word prompt for this week is “worth“, and I’d like to dedicate my writing on this Father’s Day to my own father, and to include mention of some other important fathers in my life.

Special thanks to my sister for providing me digital copies of several old family slides mostly taken by my mother of us as children. They have brought me joy today and reminded me of many special childhood memories.

I may be pushing the five minute mark again just a bit (OK, a lot, but it’s important!), but will keep things mostly unedited in the spirit of the challenge.

Happy Father’s Day to you, Dad!

*****

What is the worth of a father?

It can’t be put onto words, but the value of a good father is reflected in his children and in how he affects the lives of those around him.

My Dad & I many years ago

Dad & baby Ann (many years ago!)

We can mostly agree that while a good father influences others for good, in the same way a father can negatively impact his children for the rest of their lives.  We’ve all seen examples of children who really struggle in areas of life or sometimes need inner healing as adults from the turmoil of a poor father-child relationship (whether “negative” or just nonexistent).

I’m thankful for my own good father, as well as some other special fathers in my life. Though imperfect, they have impacted those in their lives in a positive way.

My husband is a wonderful father to our now almost grown sons. He has led them through his life and changed them with his love. He manages to keep us all laughing and enjoying life in the process.

My husband’s late father loved his family and fought for them, both in family life and in the Second World War. His life ended after a valiant fight with cancer, but the honor of his memory and the love he shared will always bless his family as well as many others.

My sister’s husband showed up just at the right time, to “rescue” her after the death of her first young husband, and has brought much joy and love into her life, as well as being a superb father to their three sons. He is a gifted musician, and also “fathers” many other lives in his role as an associate pastor.

My husband’s sister also married a wonderful man, who has been not only father to their now-grown son, but has always been one to reach out and care for our family. He would do anything to help out using his talents in construction and house-building, and he has cared tirelessly for his wife for years.

Even though my father’s father (my grandfather) endured the fear and hardship of becoming blind as a young man, he was truly one of the happiest, most fun (even silly!) people I’ve ever met! He always found fun in each circumstance, and “saw” more than most of us with two properly functioning eyes. He would often jokingly respond in our conversations with the words, “I see”, accompanied by a smile and his usually peaceful demeanor. Even though he couldn’t provide for his family in the traditional sense, he gave them an exceptional example of joy and courage, and even creativity. He wrote and performed folk music for many years, even performing before the Queen Mother when she visited Ontario many years ago.

Now I’d like to focus for a few minutes on my own father on this Father’s Day.

My Dad was a big part of many of the family memories growing up that were shared in the post I dedicated to my mom.

Dad played a lot with us when we were children, and we enjoyed his being silly with us through the years. Laughter and fun seem to follow wherever Dad goes. He spent much time outdoors with us, either teaching us about gardening or playing in our large, two-acre yard, or taking us camping as a family (often twice in a summer; one of the perks of being in the teaching profession).

Dad pumping water for my sister and I to drink

Enjoying a cool camp drink.

He was always teaching us, whether it was the facts of science, the wonders of nature, or the things of God. I often had my English corrected in our home, but even if I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, I now realize the benefit of knowing how to speak correctly.

Dad was a lover of animals, whether that meant teaching us how to care for and enjoy our pets (mainly cats), instilling in us an appreciation for the animals of nature, or on rare occasions, having to “help” an animal by making the difficult decision to let them go.

Once when I was caring for my best friend’s hamster while she was on vacation, my dad was a great support to me. I walked into a room to find that yes, one of our cats had somehow got into the cage and killed her hamster. Although they were both peacefully laying on the floor, I was devastated at what had happened to my friend’s pet, especially under my care. I’ll never forget how Dad came and gently picked up the hamster, stroking his fur as we prayed (just in case God saw fit to bring him back to life).

We often had the benefit of enjoying his class pet at home (usually a hamster, but including chickens and other animals), to care for it over school vacations.

My mother did most of the Christmas shopping, but as a young girl, I vividly remember some of the special gifts that Dad picked out especially for me. He would buy us just one more thing that was just from him, even though the shopping was supposed to be finished. One such gift was a special scented soap (Yardley, I believe), in a yellow case that he chose for me one year. We also made it a fun habit to work on a craft sort of project since we all had time off during the holidays, even though many times it sat unfinished when school started again.

Dad liked to take impromptu drives to look at nearby Niagara Falls and then eat at Joey’s Pizza, and we sometimes drove the almost two hours to watch airplanes take off and land at the Toronto airport. We also drove to many provinces and states during our summer camping trips.

climbing a dam wall with my dad

Dad, Rebecca, and I climbing a water dam. Kind of depicts our personalities…

I have some fond memories of helping Dad to decorate his school classroom and make copies on the ditto machine. We also grew up drawing on the clean side of the many extra school papers that Dad brought home for us to use.

He has apologized to me as an adult, for trying to make me “too perfect”, to which I generally joyfully respond, “Well, you succeeded!” I never felt my parents were too strict; but rather raised me lovingly with firm values that I have carried with me all of my life. I appreciate the many times Dad would humble himself to apologize when he felt that he had failed, a practice that I have learned to do with my own children.

In my adult life, my dad has continued to be a support to myself and our family.

When my mother had cancer, dad loved her and served her well, learning to do many of the household chores that she usually did as a stay-at-home mom. Later he was a tremendous support to my sister and her first young husband throughout his battle with Hodgkin’s disease. He also thoughtfully cared for both of my grandmothers as they aged, often driving them to their appointments. He has been, and remains a faithful friend to many.

We still have a lot of fun together, and my father continues to be a support to us all. He has managed to remain sensitive to our hurts and griefs, yet always maintains an attitude of unshakable faith and almost childlike trust, through all of our difficult times. I know he has prayed for us throughout these many years.

He has kept himself “young” over the years by participating in magnificent church plays and singing in choirs and worship teams (carrying on in his musical father’s footsteps), by remaining active physically (riding a motorcycle and more recently a scooter); he’s participated in missions trips and run several businesses from home since retirement, and still enjoys driving a small school bus (enjoying the fun of the school children without all the grading and disciplining of running a classroom).

He continues to grow and learn and become a better husband, even as a senior. He has taken steps to overcome fears such as height phobia (such as flying in a friend’s little airplane and driving on scary mountain roads with steep drop-offs), as well as shown me that we can learn to not let anxiety (about medical things and blood), rule our thinking and emotions. When I was a child, he completed his Masters degree at night school while being a full-time teacher during the day, and still managed to spend ample time with his family.

I’m sure I will think of more I would like to share, but suffice it to say that I’m proud to be my father’s daughter. I am thankful that God placed me in this family, and that now my own family has been sharing in the blessing of knowing my dad.

Thank-you for the worth and value you’ve added to our lives, Dad!

You have helped us to appreciate both the silly and the important things of life. We look forward to continuing to learn, grow and love together, as we add to the special family memories we share.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

courageous mug with frothy hot drink

A Post Dedicated to My Mom

courageous mug with frothy hot drink

This is a special day, as I write and share the 100th post of my blog, Simply Flourishing Home!!!

My blog has taken a “back seat” lately, mainly because of injuring my finger, making it difficult and time-consuming to type. With my 100th post coming up I had wished to make it significant, but have been disappointed to honestly just not have it in me physically and emotionally to come up with something spectacular.

Often when we are in a difficult or challenging place, the best option becomes to just “do the next right thing”. So when I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday word prompt, I decided to do just that.

With this background, I’d like to dedicate this, my 100th blog post, to my Mom. ♥

I can’t think of a more deserving tribute on this Mother’s Day, 2017.

*****

Sometimes I find it difficult to figure out what sentiment to write on a greeting card, especially for someone as significant, appreciated and loved as my mother. After fifty years, I often hesitate, struggling to come up with a better, new or more meaningful way to say what’s in my heart. But words are often inadequate.

For today’s Five Minute Friday post (which will undoubtedly push the five-minute “limit” with my finger still recuperating from surgery), I’d like to take some time to tell you, Mom, some of the things that have made you a special mother to me over all of these years.

It all started on June 14, 1966; well, actually let’s not forget all of those exciting, yet tiring and overwhelming months of pregnancy, as well. I don’t even know many details about how that was for you, but I know it takes a great deal of sacrifice. Neither did I realize just how hard delivering a baby could be (as expressed in my first words to you after giving birth to my first son, “I owe you, Mom!”)

As a child I have so many fond memories. Although hours of details and moments seem shrouded by the forgetfulness of my many years, the ones that are clear to me are mostly wonderful.

I remember enjoying growing up on two country acres and all of the fun and learning that growing a large garden and mowing big fields brings. I appreciate being taught important skills, often just by watching you, but also being given the freedom to run and play and enjoy my long childhood. I remember the joys of planting, harvesting and eating fresh vegetables and scrumptious strawberries, and appreciate all of the work you did to preserve much summer goodness to enjoy all winter from our big chest freezer.

I appreciate the gift of having you home with myself and Rebecca (when she came along six years later), a gift that is becoming more increasingly rare in our modern culture.

Even when we were old enough to get ready for school on our own, you would get up and leave us some breakfast food, in order to make our busy morning run more smoothly. It also reminded us that you cared.

Our family vacations in the long summer days make up a large part of my childhood memories.

We were blessed to enjoy more time together as a family with Dad being an experienced teacher, and I appreciate all of the work you did to make those trips happen. Even while we sometimes helped out on vacation (and probably should have more than we did), I thank you for taking extra responsibilities on yourself so that we girls could enjoy freedom and the wonders of nature while you prepared many of our meals, or just one more swim with dad while you packed up most of our camp to leave for home.

I thank you, Mom, not only for you and Dad taking us to church all of our lives, but for modeling what it means to live authentic, though imperfect, Christian lives. I appreciate all of the times when you (and often Dad) calmed my fears and helped me to sort through my own conflicting emotions and thoughts in a loving way.

Thank-you for every mess you cleaned up, every tear you wiped, all of the “undesirable” things a mother just does every single day.

Another huge part of my favorite childhood memories was how we celebrated special times and holidays, but especially Christmas.  I’m glad that you enjoyed it, but I know you did so much work to make these family memories even more special.  The elaborate but inexpensive creative decorations, gifts, and treats made the season simply magical. I’m so happy to be able to pass on a part of these loving traditions to my own family.

I love your creativity that you shared with your family, through hand-sewn clothes, homemade Christmas decorations, and cards you made for us at Valentine’s Day.

I am so grateful that you shared your love of music with me and taught me how to sing harmony.  I love how you and Dad took us to “Jesus festivals” to hear the early artists of Christian rock music, and how as seniors, to this day, you still love and appreciate quality, “upbeat” music, such as the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Although it was hard on both of us (and eventually we decided I should take a break, then learn from another teacher), I appreciate your sharing your knowledge of how to play the piano with me, and enjoyed hearing you play for enjoyment yourself.

Another thing I appreciate is how I was made to feel special and important, because my feelings always mattered.

One such occasion was the morning when your father, my grandfather, passed away. Even as you were grieving your own loss and watching the pain of your own mother, you and Dad let me know that it was OK to be disappointed to not be leaving that morning as planned on our family vacation.

Another time was years later when I was a young adult. As I expressed feelings of guilt over something seemingly insignificant really bothering me when you were suffering with the sickness and painful treatment of cancer, you responded yet again in such a caring, “motherly” way. I’ll never forget your letting me know that just because my concern was “less serious” than cancer did not make it any less real to me, and that it was OK for me to hurt even when you were suffering so greatly.

You demonstrated courage and faith as you passed through the difficult months (and years) of cancer and how it affects all of one’s life.

I love how when my teenage friends came to our home, many times they would “borrow” your ear to share something that you made them feel comfortable enough to share, even though they were a guest. I have so many memories of the time, care and sacrifice that you and Dad made in ministering to youth and young adults, teaching Rebecca and I to love God, the church, his people and his work throughout our lives.

Another special little “gift” to me were the times you simply washed my long hair in the kitchen sink (although it’s slightly embarrassing to admit my teenage laziness for some reason about this). I was perfectly capable of doing it myself, but it made me feel loved and “spoiled” (in a good way). I don’t think it has hindered my growth in any way, but it helps me to remember a practical way that you showed how much you cared for me.

You continue to be a “mom” to so many other individuals whom God has brought into your life, even while your children live far away.

Since I’ve “grown up” (do we ever really?), married, and had children, you have still been a loving, helpful and supportive mom for all of these years, and for that I still thank you.

You have often continued to calm my fears, helped me to work through my adult struggles, prayed endlessly for me and my husband and sons, and helped to create so many more special memories.

We are grateful for the added blessing of sharing these memories with your grandsons, our own family.

Mom, I’ve only touched on a small percentage of my thoughts and memories for which I wish to express appreciation and gratitude, but I hope that it brings you just some of the blessing you deserve today.

So Mom, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

I know that you will never stop being a mother, my mother, and I only pray that God gives me the strength, courage and wisdom to be the mother to my sons, and to all those God brings into my life, that you have been to me.

I love you. ♥

*****

 

One God and Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus

Enough Already

One God and Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus

 

Today’s post will be linked up with my friends over at Five Minute Friday, where different authors and bloggers all join together to write their five-minute’s-worth of thoughts on a common theme. Today’s prompt is “enough“.

*****

This morning I awoke to sun. Shiny, bright and inviting; after a week of cold rain and clouds, it brought immediate help to my weary bones and heart.

I have no major complaints; I am thankful to say that life is not too difficult right now.

But some days it’s still a struggle for all of us.

I clicked on Facebook for a few minutes and saw that my dear sister posted a photo of the snow covering they awoke to today. Then another faraway friend stated the same…..the roads were worse than ever, and the snow-clearing machinery may have already been put away.

So my first thoughts when I saw the prompt for today’s writing was, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

I know there are so much deeper and meaningful things about which to write, but that’s where I was at first.

I proceeded to get my (phone) camera and try to capture photos of the beauty around me, in order to share online with my weather-weary friends.

Then a little treat: a fluffy little bird, bathing happily in my birdbath, with other birds flitting about. I immediately started a rough video and shared that instead.

Next, I proceeded to start my quiet time. I looked at my scripture of the day, 1 Timothy 2:5-6,

For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.”

I chose a new devotional (from YouVersion), which led me to one which included music and an Easter theme.

 

Here is the song that was written about today:

 

 

So, in the end, I am writing about something more serious.

Something I believe is so important, so vital to the heart, soul and lives of myself and those around me.

The Church is already in the season of Lent, and will soon be sharing in many celebrations of Easter, the culmination of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

It bears some serious thought, whether you are a believer or not.

I remember an Easter sermon given by my former pastor a few years back, in which he showed us a diagram, a graph sort of image that represented what happened to the world at the time when Christians claim that Jesus died and rose again.

No matter what you think about it, something happened.

The world was definitely changed.

People have testified not only to walking and speaking with him in person after his death, but for thousands of years, men and women have claimed that their lives have been changed forever by their acceptance of that single, horrible, then victorious gift.

We cannot ignore the sacrifice nor the celebration.

And it is enough, already.

*****

 

 

Mason Christmas gift jars

Simple Gifts in Mason Jars – great last-minute Christmas gift idea

Mason Christmas gift jars

Today I’m wondering…..do you have any last-minute gifts to give?

Perhaps you’re going to someone’s home for the holidays and need a small token of your appreciation. Maybe you are looking for just the right “something” for your child’s teacher. Or do you have some close friends or church small group members to whom you’d like to present with a little gift of love and appreciation?

Well, you’re in luck, even at the last minute, especially if you have a supply of mason or other decorative jars at your disposal. While last-minute Christmas shopping is less than appealing to most people, and DIY gifts are too time consuming at this point in the season, this simple make-it-yourself gift is an exception.

By the way, if you like jars like some of us do, I highly recommend stocking up on them when you see a good price or sale, find a great deal on Amazon (like these colored mason jars or these fun, whimsical jars), or come across nice jars from products you use and yard or other sales.

I have purchased several different colors of mason jars (mostly pints), from stores like Target and Christmas Tree Shops. I keep nice-looking jelly-jars and other interesting jars from products I buy or receive. Even dollar stores offer either mason or other interesting jars. And if your family and friends know you love and use jars, they may even offer you some they have hanging around.

If this is truly last minute and you don’t have any appropriate jars, head on over to your nearest supermarket or other local store and I’m willing to bet they will carry an assortment of canning jars for you to purchase.

In a pinch, you can also adapt some of these ideas to other cute or pretty containers you may have or find. (For example, here are some colorful, practical, plastic containers and these organza bags are nice too (and not just for a wedding, as suggested).

empty colored mason and other jars

Once you’ve assembled your gift-giving jars or containers, next you need the gift contents.

In this post, I am presenting any and all ideas I can think of that would make a nice and/or useful gift. I would choose items that you love, especially that you know would suit the one to whom you’re giving the gift, and/or items that you have purchased, received or collected for this purpose.

(I will provide several links to ideas on Amazon, but you may find suitable gift items from just about anywhere: dollar stores, online stores, supermarkets, gift stores, drug stores, big chain stores, warehouse/club stores. Ideally, you may wish to be collecting these items as you go along as well; you never know when you will see a great sale or clearance price on items that can become part of a lovely gift. You’ll stretch your precious dollars most when you can prepare in advance.)

The ideas I’m including here are simple, quick and economical. (Yes, you could fill a jar with precious jewels, money and/or a collection of gift cards if that works for you, but most of us need more affordable ideas.)

Assorted goodies to fill gift jars

Ideas for filling your gift jars:

  1. Hot cocoa mix: layered cocoa (I wrote a whole post about this last year), homemade mix (using a recipe such as this), or even store-bought cocoa mix topped with mini-marshmallows and/or crushed candy canes (crush your own or purchase pre-crushed candy canes.)
  2. Assortment of holiday and/or other tea-bags: maybe you have some at your home already or you can buy some to share
  3. Hot chocolate packets: add marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and/or candy canes to mix in
  4. Votive or tealight candles: fill up the jar with different colors and scents and perhaps some match sticks
  5. Small toiletry items, nail polishes, and/or make-up items:you can include such items as small nail files, individual eye-shadows, bath salts/bubbles, travel size shampoo or hand lotions, cute socks (rolled up)
  6. Christmas candy and/or nice chocolates: my absolute favorites are Lindor truffles; any individually wrapped candy or chocolates would be nice
  7. Combination or theme jars: combine some of the above ideas that work together (tealights, bath crystals, and a shower pouf; tea, hot cocoa packs and truffles; Christmas tea, candy and a small ornament)
  8. Homemade trail mix, granola, or snack mix: make up your own mix with dried fruits and nuts or follow a recipe idea (This Pinterest page has many interesting Christmas recipes for both trail and snack mixes, while this looks like a nice recipe for healthy, homemade granola.)
  9. Small arts and craft supplies: beads and jewelry making supplies; stickers or craft supplies for a child; small crayons and/or drawing supplies; assorted mini gel pens, small colored pencils, markers or crayons and tape or glue sticks
  10. Decorative office supplies: colorful and/or decorative paper clips, pens/markers/pencils, mini stapler and staples, small tape dispenser, shaped or designed erasers, sticky notes or flags

Hopefully this list will provide you with a starting point for designing gift jars that are fun, meaningful and low-stress gifts for friends and loved ones.

Now all you need to do is decorate your jars with ribbon, tags or labels (here are some cool chalkboard labels), or simply top with a bow and enjoy giving them away!

mason jars filled with items for quick gifts

layered cocoa gift jars 2

*****

Have you ever given a gift in a jar? Do you have any ideas to add to my list?

 

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!

*****

 

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?

 

 

 

homemade blueberry pancakes with butter and syrup

How To Make Easy, Healthy, Delicious Homemade Pancakes

 

homemade blueberry pancakes with butter and syrup

Homemade fresh blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup.

Happy Fourth of July, friends!!!

Today I realized that it would have been nice to share a festive, patriotic recipe with you, but truth be told, I didn’t make any special holiday recipes this time (sometimes life just happens), and what I really had planned to share was a recipe for homemade pancakes.

Well, this is the beauty of this homemade pancake recipe. They are they quick and simple to mix up (with basic ingredients you probably have in your pantry), they can be made much more healthy than store-bought pancake mixes (by using part or all whole grain flour and healthy add-ins), and they’re economical. And what’s more, with the addition of an endless variety of ingredients, they can be changed up to suit any special occasion or holiday!

pancakes on griddle

The pancakes in my photos are made with fresh blueberries, but you can leave them plain or include any number of different add-ins to create the pancake of your liking. I’m including a list of many ideas for add-in ingredients for your homemade pancakes, but the variety of options is really endless! I often separate out some of the batter and make two varieties at once, just for fun.

If I were planning ahead for the Fourth of July, I would probably add blueberries and strawberries to my pancakes, and serve them with some nice, white whipped cream. Or leave the pancakes plain and top them with fresh blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream. Or put blueberries in the pancakes and top with strawberries and cream. For Canada Day (July 1st), I would just use red raspberries or strawberries and cream. You get the idea.

I got the original recipe for homemade pancakes from a good friend of mine, who is easily the best baker-mom I know of. She and her now older daughters are always posting photos on Facebook of such delicious recipes and baked goods that I’m often tempted to put down what I’m doing, jump in the car, and drive the roughly three hours to get to her house to “share” in the deliciousness. The recipe was jotted down on whatever note-pad paper we had hanging around at the time when she was at my house. For sentimental reasons, I will probably never throw away that original, food-stained, but cherished, hand-written page.

handwritten homemade pancake recipe

Homemade pancake recipe from my dear friend, Donna.

 

A few helpful notes before we begin (if you’re really hungry, you may skip ahead to the recipe below, but I think it will be worth the read):

  •  Although it seems to be cheating somehow, I usually just add all the ingredients to my mixing bowl in almost any order, and thoroughly mix them together. No need to dirty two bowls and be all fancy about the order of ingredients.
  • In an effort to use healthier oils, I prefer not to use liquid oils such as corn or canola (although you certainly can, and I did for years), but instead, melt a little butter or coconut oil to add for the required oil. ( I did find out the other day, however, that if you wish to use coconut oil, you’ll need to be mindful of the fact that it will start to harden and form little lumps in your batter if it comes in contact with cold ingredients.)
  • I like to make these healthier by using at least half whole wheat flour, and very often add some ground flax meal. We are at the point in our family that pancakes made with plain white flour actually taste a little bland to us, so ramping them up with whole grains is, in my opinion, the way to go!
  • The milk measurement can be adjusted according to your preference for thinner or thicker pancakes. Factors such as the other ingredients you use and even temperature may affect the thickness of your pancakes, so I recommend trying a smaller amount of milk at first, then adding more if you decide your pancakes are too thick.
  • Surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve tried this yet, but I’m sure that alternate milks such as almond could be used. I’ll try that soon and let you know.
  • I prefer to use a griddle to speed up the process of making a large number of pancakes, but of course a good, old-fashioned frying pan is fine. I have a nice quality non-stick griddle, but many folks are opting for cast iron (such as this one). I am told that cast iron is wonderful, but as of yet, haven’t used one regularly myself. With cast iron, you may even be able to cook pancakes on your grill outdoors!
  • You may need to experiment to learn your ideal temperature for cooking your pancakes. Generally, medium heat is best. (See this article for more great pancake-making tips.)
  • I cook my pancakes in butter for best flavor, also eliminating the need for serving additional butter on the pancakes (but you may still add some if you like).
  • I love to use my largest cookie/baking scoop from my set (from one of my favorite direct marketing companies) to scoop out the batter. You can find a similar set on Amazon here (for a top-rated, but expensive set), or here, (for a less expensive, but functional set). I would love to try this pancake batter dispenser.
  • I usually make four times the amount called for in this recipe, since with my two tall older sons and 6’4″ husband, a single batch would not even feed us any more. Also, I love to have leftovers. So I will make life easier for you by including a second ingredient list with measurements for a quadruple batch as well. You’re welcome. 🙂
  • To keep your pancakes warm (while you cook up the rest), place an ovenproof casserole or cookie sheet in your oven set to a low temperature (200-250 degrees F). In warm weather (if you just can’t stand to turn on your oven), you can put the casserole dish in your microwave and close the door, or into a large toaster oven like mine, set on low heat.
  • If you have any left over pancakes (or purposely make extra, as I do), you can keep them in the fridge for a few days, or freeze them for later use. Save your money, and serve your own healthy, tasty pancakes from your freezer on busy or lazy mornings, instead of purchasing inferior store-bought packages!

So, without further ado, here is the recipe for homemade pancakes. I hope you discover as I did, that it’s so much better than using a mix from the store, and almost as easy. It’s definitely worth the extra five minutes or so!

pancake ingredients

What you will need (plus sugar….see next photo).

 

making homemade pancakes (batter)

Adding the brown sugar.

 

making homemade pancake batter

Adding nutritious flax meal to the batter (optional).

 

adding fresh blueberries to homemade pancake batter

Adding some fresh blueberries.

 

Healthy Homemade Pancakes

 

Ingredients (single batch):

1 egg, beaten

1 cup flour (I use at least half whole wheat flour)

1 Tbsp sugar (I prefer brown)

2 Tbsp. oil *

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3/4 to 1 cup milk

(* Plus additional butter or oil in which to cook pancakes.)

 

Ingredients (quadruple or my “normal” sized batch):

4 eggs

4 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil*

2 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. or 1/4 cup baking powder

3 to 4 cups milk

(* Plus additional butter or oil in which to cook pancakes.)

 

“Add-in” ingredient ideas:

  • vanilla or other flavored extract
  • ground flax (or flax meal), for added health benefit
  • fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, or other berries or combinations
  • sliced bananas (or mashed ripe banana)
  • fresh, frozen or dried cranberries (or other dried fruit/berries, such as dried cherries)
  • chocolate chips (or other flavored chips)
  • cinnamon and chopped apple or applesauce
  • pumpkin puree (store-bought or homemade) and pumpkin pie spices
  • chopped apple and almond (use a little almond extract and slivered almonds)
  • coffee granules and chocolate (powder or chips), for mocha flavor
  • peanut butter (or peanut butter powder) with banana or chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients. Fold in any “add-in” ingredients of choice. Heat griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Add butter (or oil) to melt. Drop desired amount of pancake batter onto hot griddle. Cook until pancakes bubble and edges look a little dry. Flip and continue cooking until golden brown.

Hold pancakes in a warm place. Add more butter as needed to cook the remainder of the batter.

Serve with pure maple syrup or other desired toppings. Enjoy!

making homemade pancakes with bubbles before turning

Pancakes are ready to flip when they are covered with bubbles and the edges seem dry.

 

cooked homemade blueberry pancakes

Hot homemade blueberry pancakes.

 

Optional topping ideas:

  • pure maple syrup or other syrup of choice
  • flavored syrups or jam
  • fresh, cut up strawberries (or other berries) and whipped cream
  • applesauce
  • yogurt
  • peanut butter or almond butter

 

homemade heart-shaped pancake

Freestyle heart-shaped pancake.

 

heart-shaped homemade pancake

Sometimes I finish off the last of the batter by making a giant or heart-shaped pancake (which usually goes to my husband). 🙂

 

homemade blueberry pancakes -2

Yummy!

 

Now that you have the recipe, what are you waiting for?

Enjoy your delicious, homemade pancakes for breakfast, brunch or even a “breakfast-supper”!

*****

Please let me know how you like this recipe. If you are a cast iron griddle user, please share your experience with us, especially for cooking pancakes. Do you have any personal ideas for add-in ingredients or toppings to share?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day cemetery photo

Remember What it Cost – A Memorial Day Weekend Reflection

1280px-Memorial_Day_at_Arlington_National_Cemetery

What do you have planned for this Memorial Day weekend?

It’s easy and normal to fire up the grill, get together with friends and loved ones, and eat some great food. If we’re lucky (like this year), we may even enjoy some warm summer-like weather and many will head to the beach.

But what is Memorial Day really about?

History.com describes Memorial day as, “the official beginning of summer and America’s most solemn occasion”, a somewhat interesting juxtaposition of celebrations.

According to their website, here’s a brief summary of the history of our Memorial Day celebration:

“Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.”

There is also an informative and contemplative video on the same page, which you may like to view for more details.

So while it’s good and important to spend quality time with friends and family, and healthy to rest and relax, let’s take a little time this weekend to stop and consider the cost of this freedom we enjoy.

Let’s meditate on the price that was paid by the men and women who served and paid with their lives, so that we can enjoy our lives in peace and security.

Let’s remember those whose families are missing loved ones today, so that we can spend the day with those we love.

And let’s thank God for our country, which though imperfect, is still one of the best places on earth to live.

Take in a Memorial Day parade which will help to focus your thoughts on the true meaning of the holiday. Watch one of many video clips which bring honor to those who sacrificed for us. Or just take some quiet time to reflect.

I like this simple cartoon, which really says it all:

While we’re at it, we can be thankful for those who still serve today to help keep our country peaceful. We can pray for the ones who served and returned, but left a piece of themselves in the trenches or on the battlefield.

We can take this one step further (or perhaps I should say, “closer”), and take some time to be thankful to all those around us for all they do to add quality and enjoyment to our days, such as family and close friends. We can show appreciation to those who support and protect us in a myriad of ways, such as our pastors, teachers, doctors & nurses, and all those who wear a uniform that represents any kind of service.

The ultimate sacrifice was made by One who paid the price for my sin and offered his Son for my eternal freedom.

I agree with the sentiment that “freedom isn’t free”.

So as we enjoy this weekend with those we love, let’s take time to stop and remember what it cost.

*****

 

 

 

Coral colored roses 2016-05-07

Why We Should Take Care of Mom on Mother’s Day

Coral colored roses 2016-05-07

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I know that there are many mixed emotions about this holiday.

Some people don’t care for such days, I think primarily because they either feel it’s “fake” or contrived, or because they feel that mothers should always be appreciated.

I have to agree with the second reason, but to me, just like so many other holidays and traditions (such as Christmas, Easter, and even meal-time prayers), it’s sometimes good to set aside a special day or time to focus on celebrating an important event or blessing someone special.

For this reason, I think that Mother’s Day is a great day to pull out all the stops and really make mom feel special.

Before I continue, let me also point out that some folks dislike Mother’s Day because they have pain associated with such a holiday. It could be the pain of losing a mother, grief over not being able to bear children, or the devastation of losing their own child. There may even be those who have been hurt so badly by a mother that celebrating just doesn’t seem possible.

My heart goes out to these people, and I believe we need to be very sensitive to those around us who are hurting or for whom this holiday causes discomfort.

But for most of us, I believe that Mother’s Day can be a positive celebration to honor the mothers in our lives.

For this Mother’s Day I’d like to list some simple reasons for taking special care of mothers.

Why We Should Take Care of Mom on Mother’s Day:

 

1. It’s the right thing to do. 

The Bible instructs us to honor our parents (Ephesians 6:2). Proverbs 31:28 states,

“Her children stand and bless her.
    Her husband praises her”,

and verse 31 reads, 

Reward her for all she has done.
    Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.”

Even if you’re not a Bible follower, I’m sure you feel the responsibility to give respect and appreciation to the one who brought you into this world.

2. Labor!

Come on, now. If you’ve given birth yourself you know exactly what I mean. (Unless you’re one of the few extremely rare ones who say it didn’t hurt or that you didn’t realize you were in labor….and I am in no way jealous.) If not, have you ever seen a live birth or even a video of one…..or perhaps a fabricated, yet vivid television portrayal of a woman giving birth? Need I say more? (Thankfully, I won’t post pictures!)

Your mother welcomed you into this world at great discomfort to herself and with great travail. The least you can do is buy her some flowers or chocolate and a card!

Seriously though, my perspective on what my own mother did for me changed dramatically, immediately after giving birth to my first child.

3. Mothers sacrifice regularly, often neglecting to care for themselves.

Mothers spend a good deal of their waking hours and energy caring for their children and families. They’re created to nurture, and it often comes at the expense of rest or care for themselves. Mother’s Day is a great time to set a precedent for taking special care of mom, and allowing her to have the rest and enjoyment she deserves.

4. We are teaching our children to respect and honor their parents.

As we read in the above Bible verses that mothers are to be honored (see point #1), it’s our responsibility to teach our children and the next generation to respect and care for their parents. We also need to model this type of godly behavior for our kids.

5. Focusing on mothers reminds us not to be selfish.

Any time we take the focus off of our ourselves and our own concerns in order to celebrate and bless someone else, it reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. It’s healthy to learn to care for and be sensitive to others, and in so doing we will gain a larger perspective than just that which concerns us.

 

You may already be aware of the many reasons to celebrate moms, but I hope this gave you a little more to think about. I pray that you may enjoy either being a mother and/or celebrating the mothers in your life.

If you cannot celebrate Mother’s Day for personal reasons, I totally respect that. If you’re one of the few who has been wronged by a mother, I’m so sorry for that injustice, but suggest that you seek help (if needed), and chose forgiveness. You will only hurt yourself if you continue to hold on to the pain that was bestowed upon you. May God heal and help you.

If you’re one of the ones for whom Mother’s Day reminds you of a personal loss, perhaps you can do something special for yourself and/or find someone else with whom to enjoy the day. Perhaps the pain will lesson as you surround yourself with those you love. May God give you comfort and peace.

Whatever your situation, I pray that you have a blessed Mother’s Day!

*****

How does your family celebrate Mother’s Day? Can you think of some new ways to bless and encourage the mothers in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

family Easter dinner

Five Unchanging Qualities of Family Traditions (Easter Musing)

It’s Easter today and I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been thinking about how some of our Easter traditions are changing.

The interesting thing about traditions ….. is that they cannot all indefinitely stay the same.

According to Wikipedia,

“A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.”

And one of Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definitions is:

” the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction”.

I really like my traditions to stay the same, and I love to share them and pass them on to my children.

But therein lies the rub. My “children” are no longer children. My sons are currently sixteen and eighteen years of age; an older teenager and a young adult.

And so although many things can and will stay the same, other things are changing.

dinner rolls and bag of potatoes

When I was a child, my parents hid candy in the house for us to find on Easter morning before church. I loved that tradition, but always had a “dream” of an outdoor Easter egg hunt.

We also poked tiny pin-holes in eggs, blew out the insides (probably saving them to cook later), and colored the eggshells with food coloring in water.

And we ate hot cross buns.

bread-maker bread

When my oldest was about three years old, we were invited to be a part of our very first Easter egg hunt. It was a very special outdoor gathering at a church friend’s farm home. The party consisted of an outdoor picnic and Easter egg hunt in their back yard (my childhood dream!).

searching for eggs at Easter egg hunt

Easter Egg Hunt

So every year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday (except for one during which we were away on vacation), we enjoyed this wonderful time of food, friends, and outdoor egg-hunting fun. Over time, the size of the event grew along with the age of our kids. The egg hunt grew to include the adjacent fields, and eventually, the big kids ended up looking for eggs all the way out in the woods, or decided to help hand out the extra candy and prizes to the little ones.

looking for eggs

 

 

finding eggs

Afterwards, we almost always rushed to our Saturday evening Easter service (another tradition of our church; we have an extra, early service on most holidays, in order to free up Sunday for those who have family to visit or entertain). We would change into our good clothes, enjoy a short but meaningful service, then come home to relax while the boys would compare treats.

dress clothes

 

fun at the egg hunt

Easter Egg Hunt eggs

We have enjoyed this particular tradition until just a couple of years ago.

I don’t think my guys are missing the egg hunt too much at this age, but a part of me still does. I don’t really want to go back to them being younger and relive the past, but it’s another one of those closing chapters in the book of our lives.

So this year, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to let it go.

But with the loss of an enjoyed, familiar tradition, I’m also realizing that I need to create some new traditions. I’ll be thinking about this in the years to come.

This year, I decided to bake a dried cherry almond bread in my bread-maker for an Easter morning treat. I programmed the machine last night before bed, and it was wonderful to awake to the aroma of freshly baking bread this morning. Perhaps homemade cinnamon rolls may make it to the Easter morning menu!

bread from bread-maker

One thing that’s nice is just having a little more breathing space in our Easter weekend. Due to either Easter choir or music ministry, usually my husband or I are involved at all three church services, while the other stays home and cooks the Easter ham dinner with the boys.

Although my sons would claim they are too old and mature for Easter egg hunts, they haven’t complained one bit about the chocolate and candy that I still surprise them with on Easter morning. Even my husband and I get in on the fun (who doesn’t like a little chocolate?), although this year I supplemented our modest amount of treats with a nice, scented candle.

Easter treats

You can see that while some of our family traditions are the same or similar to those of earlier years, others are in the process of changing.

This is a necessary development as people grow, preferences and circumstances change, or perhaps some traditional activities are no longer available.

What is important is the meaning of what we are celebrating, and the fact that we are sharing our old and new traditions with those we love.

family Easter dinner

Now that we’ve concluded that traditions themselves will sometimes change, it’s worth considering what part of our traditions should stay the same.

 

Five Unchanging Qualities of Family Traditions:

 

1. The True Meaning of the Holiday is Central –

The real meaning of the holiday is the most important element in the celebration. For those of us who are Christians, holidays like Christmas and Easter will have a central focus on the celebration of what those holidays mean to our faith. We are not simply passing on meaningless traditions to our children, but sharing elements of our values and beliefs.

2. Family and Loved Ones Are Together –

I think most of us would agree that one of the most important factors of holiday traditions is that we are together with family and loved ones. It may not always be possible to be together physically, but a phone call can keep us connected. Or we may chose to bless someone else who needs a family with whom to celebrate. Sharing time with loved ones gives special meaning and enjoyment to our holidays.

3. We Celebrate Our Family History or Culture –

What would certain holidays be like without the rich and varied traditions of our cultures? We can pass on both significant and fun elements of our family’s culture(s) through holiday traditions. It helps us to be proud of who we are, and understand where we came from.

4. Familiarity and Routines Are Healthy –

Most of us realize that while change can be fun, interesting and help us to grow, familiarity and routine are healthy and less stressful. We find a degree of security in doing something familiar and knowing what to expect.

5. It’s Just Plain Fun! –

This may sound shallow, but a big reason we do an awful lot of our traditional activities is just for good, plain fun! Making memories is the stuff of life, especially in our families. These are the times that draw us close and energize us for the more mundane responsibilities of everyday life. Our memories stay with us even as time passes and things change.

 

It’s interesting to note that I didn’t even make the connection until after I finished writing this post, that my word of the year seems to be “change”…..so thoughts about changing tradtions really shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. 🙂

No matter what changes time and circumstances bring, I plan to continue to celebrate family traditions and enjoy every moment.

*****

What special traditions do you observe at Easter? Do you prefer the familiarity of doing the same thing year after year or enjoy spontaneous changes? What important traditions do you wish to pass on to your children or loved ones?