tubing at Darien Lake with family

The Serious Value of Play

Today’s short post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and the prompt of the day is “play“.

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tubing at Darien Lake with family

Lazy River ride at Darien Lakes amusement park. (Yes, that’s me on the right.) 🙂

 

Children love to play.

So why is it that as adults, we find it so difficult to stop, let loose, and relax or have some fun?

I know we’re busy, especially if you have a spouse and/or a family. Our culture seems to thrive (or thinks it does) on being busy.

Perhaps you’ve learned along with me that we have to make time for the things that are really important to us. It will not just happen.

And I’ll bet that most of us as adults don’t appreciate the serious value of play.

Playing or enjoying leisure time and activities does much to relieve stress, helps our bodies (and minds, and emotions, etc.) to heal, allows us time to create and imagine, and rejuvenates us. It helps us to simply enjoy life.

Play and rest from work give us needed strength and renewed motivation to tackle our responsibilities, pressures, difficulties and joys with new vigor, both physically and mentally.

My personality tends to easily get caught up in getting things done, but when I don’t take time to stop and rest and enjoy my life, an important inner need is not met.

We just returned from a wonderful family vacation.

The weather was far from perfect, but we played indoors while it rained, enjoyed simply being together, and made a point of taking advantage of every sunny moment. We even went out to play under the clouds almost every time the rain stopped.

I was talking to my husband on the way home about how we need to work on taking time each day (even if it can only be a little), and more often each week or month to do fun things both individually and as a family.

My online Pilates group has a monthly health mission, and for July our assignment is to find time to play.

I know I need to purposefully create precious pockets of time (both big and little) to do things that refresh me and bring life to my body, mind and soul.

So forgive me if I sound like a kindergarten child, but I need to ask you a question.

Do you want to come out and play?

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

blue evening sky with clouds and trees

Expect

blue evening sky with clouds and trees

Welcome to another Five Minute Friday post, where a bunch of writers write for five minutes on a chosen prompt, without over-thinking or editing.

While I admit that I usually go a little over the five minute time suggestion, and perform a few minor edits, it’s still been a great exercise for someone who naturally tends to be too detailed and a bit of a perfectionist. Because I am learning to allow myself to not be perfect, this is why I have refrained from using a strict timer, or marking on the post where I’ve started and finished.

Join me today as we ponder the prompt, “expect”.

*****

What exactly do I expect?

It’s natural and not necessarily bad to have expectations.

I have expectations for my life and those of my family. Our youngest son just graduated from high school and our oldest son is already in college, so our thoughts and feelings have been more about their futures and what they will bring.

I am still on the long road to finger recovery since my recent knife mishap, and I tend to easily be concerned about how all that will turn out.

I like to look forward to things, but often find that people and events often do not live up to my expectations. I most surely do not always live up to my own expectations.

But what if I were to let go of expectations and hold on to hope?

The Bible informs me that hope does not disappoint.

 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

– Romans 5:3-5, NLT

 

 

I also read many great stories of faith in Hebrews 11.  Those who live by faith have put their hope in a sure place, or namely the person of God.

 

 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

– Hebrews 11:1, NLT

 

 

So rather than cling to my feeble thoughts of what my life should look like, instead of living in fear that things will not turn out the way I planned for my family, rather than constantly finding myself in a state of disappointment because people don’t do what I think they should, I will choose to hope.

Hope allows me to look forward with expectation, but helps me to trust in the One who cares for me most, even when difficult or unknown circumstances ensue.

Hope causes me to extend grace to those around me, and pray for their growth and peace.

When I live in hope, I can give grace to myself, as well.

I no longer have to worry about all the things I expect, but can live in the peace of entrusting all to God, who cares for me.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

What I Learned this Spring 2017

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

Welcome to another collection of What I Learned, an assortment of things I’ve noticed or learned that are serious, silly, interesting or emotional. It’s been a busy spring, and I’m grateful to have another opportunity to link up with Emily P. Freeman on her quarterly What I Learned page.

I’ve somehow managed to record quite a collection of miscellaneous points (20 in all!), but since my finger is still healing from a tendon injury and typing remains tedious, I’ll attempt to work against my natural inclination to detail, and be concise. Links will often be provided for you to peruse further information. I hope you enjoy this read, and learn a little or laugh a little with me.

*****

potted mint

 

1. Mint really likes growing in a pot on my windowsill.

I enjoy growing fresh herbs, and have tried to keep some on my windowsill throughout the colder months, as well as planted some in my outdoor garden in the warmer weather. Previously, I put the herbs on my sunny windowsill in their original little green plastic pots. They lasted for awhile, but eventually died, not surviving the winter.

Last summer I worked on a local farm and took advantage of that resource, probably outdoing myself with the number of herbs I purchased or received. I turned a small garden at the end of my driveway into an herb garden, and proceeded to re-pot others to try once more to help them survive the winter.

Well, I think I either chose more cooperative herbs and/or they just needed more growing room, as they mostly made it through the cold months in their roomy pots. In fact, my mint in particular (chocolate mint and spearmint) looks really happy and thriving.

indoor herbs in sunlight

 

And to top it all off, most of my herbs (the perennials) came up again in my garden early this spring!

 

herb garden in early spring

herbs outdoors in late spring

 

2. We tried a Galia melon for the first time and liked it.

While grocery shopping with a friend at Trader Joe’s this spring, I saw a melon that looked very similar to a cantaloupe, but is called a Galia melon. The inside was lighter in color, and the flavor mild. My thoughts were that the flavor seems to be somewhere between a cantaloupe and a honeydew.  According to this post, I guess I was very accurate! It was the first time we had ever tried or even heard of a Galia melon, but it was tasty!

 

3. I finally learned the meaning of the word “paroxysmal”.

I’ve had some dealings with that unpleasant condition known as “vertigo” over the past few years. The type I have been diagnosed with and treated for is known as BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It’s basically a condition of dizziness caused by crystals in the inner ear becoming dislodged and moving into one of the semicircular canals, causing a feeling of dizziness when the head is moved.

Although I’ve known the name of the condition for some time now, I never understood the meaning of the word, “paroxysmal” in the title. A paroxysm is “a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of disease, usually recurring periodically”, which helps to explain the sudden and intense nature of this condition.

Thankfully there are treatments available to help ease or eliminate the symptoms, and most therapists or doctors will teach their patients to do these exercises at home. I’m sure thankful for these medical helps.

 

4. I’ve learned of a cheaper and therefore appealing online mattress company.

After experiencing confusing and less than satisfactory mattress shopping, Tuft & Needle was started by two men.  Their aim is to cut out the middlemen and unnecessary expenses, while still delivering a high quality product. It is delivered to your door in a compact box, and the mattress will expand once opened. They even give you 100 nights to test your new mattress!

Sounds like a product worth checking out!

 

5. The Baikal seal is the only true freshwater seal species.

One of the smallest types of types of seals and the only seal species that live exclusively in fresh water, the Baikal seal lives in the waters of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

 

6. I’m not sure the story about babies being raised without affection and dying is even true.

Haven’t you heard about a so-called experiment in which a group of babies had all their physical needs met but were not shown affection, and the result being that many of them died? Well, according to this writer, we’re not the only ones who have been told such an account. But apparently the tale is lacking solid sources. As I began to look into it, it appears that although there is evidence that humans need physical affection, there doesn’t seem to be an account of such an experiment.

How do these stories get started and passed around for so long?

 

7. There is a scientific reason why orange juice tastes bitter after brushing your teeth.

It is thought that it’s because of sodium laureth sulfate, which is used as a foaming agent in most toothpastes. Apparently sodium laureth sulfate suppresses or reduces the taste receptors that allow us to taste something as “sweet”.

It could be another reason to use a more “natural” toothpaste.

 

8. I’m learning a bit about how to care for succulents.

After purchasing two cute little succulents in pretty handmade clay pots from some local high school students, I realized that I know little about how to care for them. I found a blog, Succulents and Sunshine, that seems to be a great resource if you are interested in growing this type of plant.

plants from high school sale

 

9. The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing natural wonder.

It’s hard to believe that this amazing set of rock formations on the north east tip of Ireland was created as a result of volcanic action. It looks like a truly remarkable place!

image of the Giant's Causeway

 

10. I’ve been waiting far too long between coats of nail polish.

I’m no professional when it comes to painting nails, but I do like to keep my toenails colored during the warm months when they are exposed. I’ve always thought that it was necessary to wait a long time (like 20-30 minutes?), between coats of nail polish. Well, it seems I’ve been completely wasting my time! According to one nail expert, two minutes is all you need!

I also found this article useful for more nail polish mistakes and how to avoid them.

 

11. Sharp knives really are considered more safe to use than dull ones (but they’re still scary).

I really don’t want to dwell on this topic (I didn’t even want to look at a sharp knife for some time after it happened), but since I cut my tendon on my left index finger and had to have surgery recently, I had to do just a little research to see if sharp knives really are more dangerous. The incident happened when I slipped while cutting watermelon, and resulted in my having to return to the hospital for surgery to repair the severed tendon.

I had at least one person tell me that they learned that you should keep your knives a little on the dull side. I had always heard the opposite, and interestingly enough, the knife that hurt me had only been sharpened a couple of weeks before.

After watching this short video and reading this article, I still think having sharp knives is the better way to go. But needless to say, I will never again handle a knife without caution and respect, and encourage us all to learn and practice safe knife use techniques!

index finger in splint and bandage

 

12.  It’s amazing how many wonderful and useful things you actually can do with one hand…..and how many simple things you can’t!

As a result of my injury, surgery, and current recovery process of my index finger, I have been amazed and frustrated by how much I depend on the use of one little finger! It’s interesting to see what jobs I have adapted to quite easily, while so many tasks require more mobility and/or strength than I have yet regained and remain difficult.

Never would I have imagined the work and inconvenience caused by a simple mistake in the kitchen! I won’t take it lightly when someone mentions that they are in physical therapy (now that I know how much time, effort and discomfort are often involved!) And as I progress in my therapy, I am growing more appreciative of simply having a body that works normally.

injured finger

 

13. I now know the meaning of “fractionated” coconut oil (sort of).

I won’t even begin to try to explain the details on this one, but will refer you to the “experts”. This article does a great job explaining what fractionated coconut oil is along with it’s uses. Fractionated coconut oil is defined nicely in this post , which is also informative in comparing it with extra virgin coconut oil. Here it is in a nutshell, according to the same post:

“Basically, it is a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation. Just this one change makes the oil liquid at room temperature, and extends the product’s shelf life.”

 

14. Chiffonade is a special technique used to thinly slice basil and other leafy green herbs and vegetables.

This method is used to slice basil (or other leafy greens) into pretty, thin, ribbon-like strips by stacking and rolling the leaves. You can read more details and view helpful photos here.

 

15. I have discovered that there are no federal laws governing food expiration dates.

This interesting article in the Los Angeles Times taught me that there no federal laws governing food expiration dates, many dates are not based on science, and that the resulting confusion leads to a lot of food waste (about 40 %!).

This is frustrating, to say the least!

 

16. Thankfully, cherries are really healthy!

I’ve always loved cherries. they are one of my favorite fruits! Over the years, I’ve been pleased to discover that these sweet, tasty treats have many health benefits as well. So when it comes to cherries, eat up!

 

17. Baby butter beans is another name for Lima beans.

A recent recipe I was making called for “baby butter beans“, which I had never heard of. It turns out that this is simply another name for Lima beans.

 

18. After 50 years, I’m still a bit of a “wimp” when it comes to injuries and medical procedures.

As mentioned in the above points (#11 & 12), I’ve learned a lot about myself through this experience with injuring my finger. I have always found  injuries and certain medical procedures frightening. I have had to learn to relax, believe the truth and trust the doctors and medical experts who have cared for me, but it hasn’t been easy.

I thought I had come so far (and I have), but like many weaknesses in our lives, I still have a way to go. It was disappointing to me to still feel so afraid and nervous at so many points in this process, yet I’m also encouraged as I see myself growing to trust God more and learning how to better deal with difficult circumstances. I guess we never really stop learning and growing.

 

19. I really liked sharing a different little part of my life with my (far-away) sister.

Recently, I participated in another free challenge offered by Robin Long of The Balanced Life. I have been enjoying doing her Pilates workouts for over a year now, so much so that I joined the Sisterhood (her online subscription service) and have found it to be a wonderful part of my fitness and health journey.

My dear sister and I live about 500 miles apart, and as a result, we don’t often get to participate together in many of the daily activities that we love. I invited her to join us for a free, simple healthy eating challenge, and it was so fun being able to connect online with my sister and do this challenge together. It was also special to “share” some of the community and resources that I hold dear and find so helpful and enjoyable in my life, as well as to have my many online friends (“sisters”) “meet” my own flesh and blood sibling.

I’m so glad we could do this together!

my new mug

 

20. It feels strange to have my youngest child graduate from high school (but good, too).

We just celebrated the high school graduation of my youngest child (my second son). I’m not even sure it has totally sunk in yet. It has been strange and wonderful and bittersweet all at once.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when he was in his first week of kindergarten. I was waking him to get ready for school, and he said something like, “You mean I have to do this again???” I don’t remember exactly how I answered, but I was thinking, “Only about another 12 years!”

Well, here we are.

my son's graduation

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the many things I’ve learned this spring. Life is full of wonder and changes and growth, and I’m happy to be able to remember some of these things and share them with you.

*****

What have you been learning?

 

 

 

less is more with injured finger tendon

Empty

less is more with injured finger tendon

So this is what happened on a Friday afternoon almost two weeks ago…..

I cut my index finger right at the joint while attempting to cut some watermelon with my sharp knife. After a stressful trip and several hours at the ER, I came home with a small splint, three stitches, and orders to return first thing Monday morning for surgery to repair my severed tendon.

I admit I am not good with medical procedures and emergencies.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a tendency to feel faint or go into mild shock when dealing with an injury. I don’t like this about myself, have worked and prayed my way through many situations, and have grown much, I think, but it still seems to be a weakness I must continue to deal with.

What makes it worse, is that I know that this is just a minor situation compared to what others have dealt with.

There are much more serious medical conditions and diseases (such as my friends and family members who have gone or are going through cancer), and many people I know have suffered great losses and pain of a more serious nature.

I have repeatedly wondered why I seem so weak.

I’ve come up feeling rather empty.

And this is the word prompt from last week for Five Minute Friday. I’m finally feeling enough strength today to write (typing with one hand), and link up with some wonderful fellow bloggers, squeaking in just under the wire before this weak’s new prompt.

I’ve been thinking about this all week, and really wanted to write.

Last weekend all over the world, Christians celebrated Easter. We remembered the life, suffering and death of God’s only Son, and rejoiced together in his victorious resurrection. (If you are not a believer, these amazing claims at least bear some serious contemplation.)

And the victory of Christ can help me in my weakness.

I know that in my brokenness, Christ can become strong in me.

Because the grave is also empty, I can find healing for both my body and my soul. Even my thoughts and fickle emotions can learn to be at peace.

I guess it’s not so bad to feel empty.

 

“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 12:8b-10

 

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

 

He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed. – 1 Peter 2:24

*****

 

 

 

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.

*****

 

 

Inspirational mugs

Choose What Defines You

It’s Five Minute Friday time, and the prompt for this week is, “define”. Join me as we consider this word today.

*****

Inspirational mugs

 

What defines me?

According to Dictionary.com, two meanings for the word, “define” are:

“to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe”,

and

“to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of”

We can be defined by a lot of different things. Events, circumstances, feelings, opinions all affect how I define my life.

These self-definitions help describe who we are and who we want to be. How we define ourselves can also set up boundaries (both positive and negative) that will be difficult to cross.

 

I can live in the past … and never move forward or plan and change my life for the better.

I can live for the future … and forget the formative events and people who have served to make me who I am today.

I can listen to the words of those around me, both positive and negative … and forget the words of the One who made me.

I can rely on my fickle emotions … and refuse to believe the truth beyond what I can feel.

I can base my value on what I do, how much I achieve or produce, what I own, how much money I have, how talented I am, the grades and recognition I may or may not receive, and what others think (or what I think they think) about me … all the while ignoring the truth which is often disguised by the way things look on the surface.

Some folks even prefer to define themselves by their difficult circumstances … because they don’t know anything else and are afraid to change.

 

We have a choice about what defines us. 

 

I’ll never forget a little story I read many years ago in a Readers’ Digest article.

It was about two men who were brothers of an alcoholic father. One went on to be a responsible adult with a good job and family. The other made nothing of himself and may have become an alcoholic himself.

When asked about why they turned out the way they did, each man had the same answer:

 

What would you expect with a father like mine?”

It’s not always easy, but we always have a choice.

I chose to listen to the truth.

I can find the truth when I believe the the good words of those who care about me.

I can find the best truth when I believe the words of a God who not only made me, but designed me for a beautiful and unique purpose.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!

– Psalm 139:13-18a, NLT

You can choose what defines you.

Choose to believe, and act upon … the truth.

*****

 

 

 

 

friends on Facebook

Friend Me

This post has been written to add to the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the prompt for the day is, “friend”.

*****

friends on Facebook

 

Friend me.”

This is a phrase that would have made a lot less sense when I was a little girl.

Social media was not a thing; in fact, I still remember the first computers (that weren’t the size of a room, and that “regular” people could own in their homes). Yes, I may be dating myself, but that’s OK.

But it’s a common request these days, connecting us to those we know on Facebook and other social media.

I am fairly careful who I friend. It’s good to be safe online and in real life and use godly caution.

But let’s not live in so much fear that we shut real people out.

I know that online relationships and acquaintances can never take the place of spending time with flesh and blood people, but I do find it engaging and a wonderful way to keep up with those I do know and love but can’t always be with due to miles or time constraints.

There are several wonderful ladies I’m getting to know only online. I have never met them in person, but if I walked into a room and they were there, I would give them hugs.

I believe that real friendships can be made, renewed or rekindled, or just maintained partly by interacting online. I even wrote a whole blog post on that premise.

But let’s not forget to get off of our technology and out into the real world.

Let’s make time to get together with those we love and those we wish to know better.

Don’t just pass by those people with whom you go to church, those neighbors you wish you knew better, or the colleagues you see at work, without touching them somehow.

Be the person who is not afraid to smile at a stranger, stop to help a passerby, or even offer a word of encouragement or friendship to those we meet.

Let’s cherish the ones we love and not take these moments for granted.

Because the hearts of everyone around us are saying, “friend me“.

And my heart needs to be a friend, too.

*****

 

 

 

snow boots on sidewalk with wet snow

How I Turned a Miserable Shoveling Experience into Worship

snow boots on sidewalk with wet snow

Perhaps this should more accurately be called, “How We Shoveled Heavy, Wet, Sloppy, Back-Breaking Snow, and Still Managed to Be Thankful”, or something like, “How to Be Thankful in All Circumstances, Even When Your Back Aches and You’re Soaked to the Skin.”

I’m not even sure I can claim that I was entirely thankful, or that I felt like worshiping out there, but I certainly gave it a good try.

It all started when after a couple of weeks of almost spring-like weather and all of our snow had melted, we got the weather prediction that a big snowstorm was moving in. Used to such teasing in New England, we bucked up and faced it like men (and a strong woman).

As the day drew nearer, we kept checking in on our weather apps to check the prediction updates.

The good news: almost a definite snow day (which means no school or sometimes work, up here in the north).

The bad news: around 8-14 inches of snow, with the possibility of up to 2 feet in some areas.

The night before we stayed up a little later than normal, knowing that there would be no school or work to go to, and awoke after sleeping in to nothing much happening outside.

But then it started, slowly at first, but increasing as the day went on.

And then the really bad news: the weather report stated that it would probably change over to rain or sleet at some point in the afternoon. So we knew we could not wait for every last flake to fall before we went out and braved the storm to begin our snow removal.

As nice as it is to not be too cold outside, this is not always beneficial in a snowstorm. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the worst possible outcomes (topped only by dangerously cold weather or icy conditions, or a full-blown blizzard).

By the time we all got out there, about six inches of snow had fallen, but the falling precipitation was already transformed into all rain. which means not only were we going to get wet, but the snow would be unbearably heavy. And as much as I like a good workout, there is no good way to shovel heavy, wet snow without straining one’s back.

Yet, braving the elements, we put in our time and hard work, and gradually removed the offending snow.

my men shoveling heavy, wet snow

Two of my men hard at work, shoveling heavy, wet snow. (The other is out there somewhere, too.)

Shortly after I had been working, I began to realize that my otherwise warm down coat and thick jeans were beginning to soak through.

Now if you’ve ever been soaked through to the skin in your clothes, you know this is at best a miserable feeling. But try that in close-to-freezing temps and you’ve got yourself a pretty good reason to complain.

As much as it’s OK to vent a little, before long I realized my attitude had degraded into a miserable, complaining mess, not unlike the scene around me. I was feeling like there was nothing for which to be thankful.

And then I realized I had to do something about it.

So I pushed myself to start naming things I am thankful for.

I started with the fact that I am healthy and strong enough to do this work.

Next, I listed people I know and love (I named a bunch of them), and thanked God for them. Then I went on to give thanks for my cars and home, and other random blessings. Eventually with every scoop of slushy snow, I named something else for which I could express gratitude. I think I even named every delicious ice-cream flavor I could think of with each slushy scoop, before I decided to change over to prayer.

I prayed for several people I know, and it made the work bearable.

shoveled steps with wet snow

I won’t lie to you and tell you that I felt wonderful or had any divine revelations during the course of the afternoon, because I didn’t.

I still felt crummy and wet, with rain water now dripping down my head and back, and parts of my legs feeling thoroughly chilled. The only other time I remember being this wet was when I was at a high school camp out with my Inter-School Christian Fellowship group. It was March, and we had decided to have a water fight which soaked our heavy coats and all the way through to our underwear. This was memorably uncomfortable, as the March evenings in Ontario are still relatively cold.

But back to today.

I was able to change my attitude with an act of my will, by choosing to be thankful.

 

Here are 3 things to reflect on when you are tempted to complain:

  1. Start being grateful for anything and everything you can think of.
  2. Recognize that you’ve probably been through more difficult circumstances and survived, and that there are others around you with more concerning problems right now.
  3. Turn your thoughts from inward belly-gazing, to a prayer for those around you.

 

I am tired and sore, and I’m sure my back will ache some tomorrow, but at least I recognize how much I really have for which to be grateful.

I know of so many around me going through some really hard times. There are those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and many who are struggling financially. There are acquaintances struggling with their self-image and friends who are out of work. We have family members who are suffering with physical ailments that can only be healed by a touch from God. So many I know are hurting.

We’ve gone through some hard times ourselves, but through it all, God has been faithful.

my soaking wet, smiling face

My soaking wet, but smiling face.

I’m thankful today that even thought life is far from perfect, it’s pretty good right now. We are strong and healthy and together as a family.

We have a nice, warm home and cars that run well, clothes on our backs, and good food to eat.

We are surrounded by family and friends who love and support us, a church in which we can both use our gifts to minister to others and receive blessings ourselves, and jobs that are mostly pleasant and provide for our financial needs.

With our wet clothes either hanging (and dripping) downstairs or drying in a warm dryer, at least we’re warm and cozy again. There’s homemade soup to heat up for supper, and Caramel Turtle brownie mix that beckons me to bake soon.

coats and clothes hanging to dry in basement

Coats and clothes hanging to drip dry in our basement.

As I reflect on all of my blessings, I realize that I really have a lot.

With God’s help, I can count it all joy, both in difficult times and in those wearisome or mundane times in the middle.

I can chose to be thankful in every situation.

I am learning to make all of my life, even those miserable experiences, a place of worship.

*****

It just dawned on me, shortly after posting this as I made our supper, that the worship song we sang on Sunday is totally appropriate. I’ve had the words of the chorus going through my head all week,

 

Your praise will ever be on my lips…

 

I guess maybe my heart was listening, even though I was unaware.

 

*****

In what difficult or challenging circumstances do you currently find yourself in? What helps you to change a negative attitude into one of thanksgiving or worship? For what can you be grateful today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

girl jumping off rocks

Abandon

girl jumping off rocks

 

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday.

*****

The word for today’s writing is “abandon”, and my first thoughts are of a negative nature; pictures I’ve seen of abandoned animals, or worse yet, stories of neglected and unloved children come to mind.

When I read the definitions, abandon includes the following:

  • to cease to support or look after
  • leave without intending to return
  • give up completely (a practice or a course of action)
  • allow oneself to indulge,
  • complete lack of inhibition or restraint (noun)

When I think about my life, there are many things that should definitely be abandoned. Some of them may feel like new fears or feelings, but many more are things I’ve carried with me for my whole life.

I desire to give up fears and doubts, negative thinking and self-talk, complaining, pride and striving in my own strength, holding onto hurts, making poor decisions based on feelings, and other emotions, thought patterns and actions that do not bring life.

As a Christian, my decision to follow Christ includes the abandonment of many things; but not for my harm or lack of enjoyment. God asks me to give up those things that would hurt me or someone else, or hinder me from personal growth. He asks me to prioritize following him and doing those things that would give him glory.

The verse that came up in my daily devotional was Colossians 4:2,

 

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

 

When we devote ourselves to those things that truly matter and follow the loving plan of the One who created us, it will bring life and peace. We will not long for the things we’ve chosen to abandon, because they don’t bring real fulfillment.

One of the worship songs I’m practicing for Sunday morning is called Fully Devoted.

The chorus speaks of being fully devoted to and following after the One who gave his life for me. The song reminds me to step out in faith without fear, and share the wonderful gift of God’s love with the world.

 

“Fully devoted we follow after

The one who gave it all

Christ alone be praised

No matter what it takes for the glory of your name

Christ alone be praised

We are stepping out in faith so the world will know your name

Christ along be praised”

 

You may listen to the whole song here:

 

I wish to abandon the things that only bring temporary satisfaction and don’t promote life and growth. I desire to embrace all that God has for me, and to share his good gifts with those around me.

Only when I abandon the things I do not need will I have room in my heart and life for the things that are truly good.

And that’s a sacrifice worth making.

*****