Japanese kintsugi art

Make Something Beautiful Of Your Brokenness in 2017

 

 

Japanese kintsugi art

Happy New Year, friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pine needles under Christmas tree

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

Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) or kintsukuroi (“golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. This repair method celebrates the artifact’s unique history by emphasizing the fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing the artifact with new life.”

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

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

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

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

kintsukuroi repaired flower plate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

*****

 

 

Hope, window, angel, Christmas cards

Count it All Joy

Hope, window, angel, Christmas cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do we count it all joy?

One of my favorite scripture passages comes to mind:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaf piles in my side yard

11 Things I Learned in October & November 2016

 

Leaf piles in my side yard

I’m so happy and privileged to include this post with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned link-up. Since she is now posting this quarterly and I usually try to post each month, in order to get the full story please be sure to check out my 10 Things I Learned in September 2016 post as well.

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In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel set up a reminder for the people of God, so that they would not forget his help in triumphing over the Philistines (after they turned away from their heathen gods):

 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” – 1 Samuel 7:12 (NLT)

I’d like to think of each, “What I Learned” post as a kind of “Ebenezer stone”, a place where I can stop and think not only of what I’ve learned each month, but what God is teaching me in this part of my journey.
My hope is that as I share what I’ve learned, you too will be encouraged, challenged, or even caused to let go of the stresses of life for just a few minutes.
So here’s what I’ve learned these past two months (serious or silly, in no particular order):

10 Things I Learned in October  & November 2016:

 

1. It has been claimed that egg whites will “heal” or protect burns, but in reality, it’s not the best (or even a safe), method.

So maybe this one should be classified as “almost learned”, since shortly after I heard of this idea, I also found out through minimal research that it should probably be avoided.

According to Snopes,

If egg white is at all effective in treating burns (and we’re not at all convinced that it is, 100+ year medical references to the contrary), it’s as an occlusive dressing that would keep contamination out of a raw wound, not as a magical curative of burned flesh. Its effect on the healing process wouldn’t have anything to do with its collagen content or that it’s a “placenta full of vitamins,” but rather that it’s a thickish liquid that would form a barrier. (In other words, motor oil — which has no collagen to it at all — would work equally as well.)

As to what to do with all this confusion, even when the burn is minor and the injury is fully cooled before anything else is done to it, there is a downside to coating such an injury with egg white. Raw eggs sometimes contain or have resident on their shells salmonella, a deadly bacteria. Introducing salmonella into an open wound would be a dangerous idea. Says a physician friend of ours, “Burn-injured, denuded skin is an excellent culture medium, and a contaminated egg white applied to his burn could readily cause severe damage or death to the patient.”

So before you get all excited to learn of another miraculous use for that extra dozen eggs you bought on sale, think twice! It would be wise to avoid the possibility of introducing a possibly even more serious issue into the burn in the form of salmonella.

2. My begonia plant is so much happier in a bigger pot!

begonia plant in small flower pot

Here’s the first pretty little pot to which I transferred my begonia (this photo is April 2014).

After perusing the web for information and pictures, I am fairly certain that my plant is a (somewhat) common wax begonia (or Semperflorens Begonia). I received this cute little flowering plant several years ago when a good friend of mine got married. She was the leader of our church women’s small group, and we wanted to have a special, more intimate wedding shower for our dear friend. Someone had the idea to give out these pretty plants for shower favors. We gave them to guests in a tiny little pot of some sort. Later, I re-potted mine into a bigger, but still small beautiful little flower pot where it lived and did surprisingly well for several years.

Fast forward to the end of this past summer, when I decided to give my poor, growing plant a little more “leg” (root) room. It seemed “happy” enough where it was, even flowering on occasion, but I could tell that it was really starting to outgrow it’s space. I found a larger pot in my basement, re-potted my begonia, and after a brief adjustment period, it started growing like a weed!

 

My bigger begonia plant

November 3, 2016.

My begonia - October

This is my happily growing begonia in a more roomy pot (October 31, 2016).

begonia

My happy, happy, thriving begonia!

 

 

As happy as I thought my plant was before, now I have a growing and really thriving plant! It is probably at least three times bigger and seems to never stop flowering now……it’s way of thanking me, I guess.

3. “Asking the right questions is an art form and it has a name: Social Jiu-Jitsu”.

In a world where online communication and social media is so prevalent, networking and building personal relationships face to face seems even more important. Whether we are just trying to connect personally with people we know and care for, foster good working relationships at a job, or build a brand or online business, making people feel you care and that they can trust you is critical.

I recently read this interesting and informative article online, which discusses this topic and describes the art of “social Jiu-Jitsu”, which is essentially asking someone the “right” questions to get them to open up. The author describes this as “getting people to like you”, and in reality it’s a really useful tool to learn to use if you wish to grow socially.

You probably can immediately think of someone you know who seems to naturally possess this gift. My mother and younger sister are two that come to mind right away. They both seem to be gifted naturally to ask others about themselves, whereas I and my oldest son have to purpose ourselves to interact with others in this less self-centered way.

It really seems to come down to just putting the other person first, which is something many of us (especially as Christians), aspire to do. Whatever our God-given personality, we can all learn and grow in this art.

4. Quinoa really is one of the most healthy and nutritious foods you can eat.

Have you been introduced to quinoa yet? (By the way, it’s pronounced, “keen-wa”, as recorded here, not “quin-oh-ah”, as I was apt to say at first.)

I tried this ancient grain for the first time several months ago, when I came across several recipes which included quinoa. It took a short time to get used to it, but now I enjoy it and even have a few quinoa recipes that I really like.

I had been told it is really healthy, but I really didn’t know why. In an educational article describing “11 Proven Health Benefits of Quinoa“, the author does a great job in explaining the many and very convincing traits of quinoa that make it uncommonly nutritious. It really is an extremely healthy food, and suggest you try it and join me in incorporating some into your diet.

5. Regretfully, there is a “sex mod” for Minecraft.

I came across this upsetting fact while reading a post one day online. The author is a parent and wanted to inform other parents of this news, so that they we can protect our children. She asked us to check it ourselves, and sure enough, it is true.

It’s really frustrating that even a good game like Minecraft has to have a negative counterpart.  It is disappointing that nothing is “sacred” anymore, not even an innocent children’s game.

However, after I expressed frustration about this to my husband (thinking it would ruin the game for kids everywhere), he assured me that a “mod” has to be purposely downloaded.

In other words, while it may be a temptation to older/more knowledgeable kids (who hopefully should know better or could be getting into far more trouble online already), it will not just pop up accidentally.

It doesn’t make me any happier about it, but at least many can still enjoy the game without incident. It also serves as another sobering reminder of the evil in the world we live in, and challenges parents and adults to be vigilant in teaching and protecting their young children.

6. Getting a good night’s sleep is so important (yet I’ve struggled with it for years).

I’ve been a night owl most of my life. Sometimes it’s fun and even productive, but overall it doesn’t serve me well. As most of my middle-aged friends can attest, good sleep doesn’t always come as easily as it did when we were younger. I’m thankful to not have insomnia or another more serious sleep issue, but I also find it frustrating and difficult that too often I struggle to get a decent night’s sleep.

Recently, I came across a free course online about how to sleep better. My almost immediate reaction was, “sign me up!” (You can sign up for it here too, if you like.)

The videos and lessons are short but packed with valuable information. What I didn’t know initially but found very interesting is how valuable naps can be. I’ve never been a good napper, but may need to try to utilize this form of rest more often.

My husband and father, on the other hand, have been experts at napping for years.

7. I can push myself (physically) harder than I thought, but it takes a lot out of me.

I’ve been exercising regularly now for quite a few years. I generally don’t go crazy, but am consistent and try to do moderate exercise several times a week. I also enjoy just moving, being outdoors and walking.

For the past several months, I’ve found great value and enjoyment in taking part in an online program for a Pilates exercise plan. We have a wonderful, sweet and knowledgeable instructor, and this program has helped me to become stronger and more disciplined, yet maintain a balanced lifestyle. (This is the website, if it sounds like something you’d like to check out.)

I decided to take a week-long “plunge”, and signed up for a more intense program which included recipes for a meal plan and longer Pilates workouts to be repeated for seven days in a row.

Well, I did it! It was difficult at times, but I’m proud to say that this 50-year old made it through!

I learned a lot about healthy and more balanced eating and a good deal about myself. Although I lost a few pounds and am definitely stronger, it did seem to take a lot out of me. It took me a few days to feel “recovered” and rested again.

It’s good to know that I can still push my body, but it needs to be balanced with rest and time to recuperate.

8. Poldark is my new favorite TV show.

My husband and I found another British television show we really enjoy watching together!

It’s really difficult to find good TV shows, (especially after my becoming a Downton Abbey fan). We watched the first season of Poldark by temporarily subscribing to the PBS website, then caught up and enjoyed the current season on television.

I hope the show continues to be mostly wholesome and enjoyable.

9. I finally learned the difference between white and yellow cake (and how to make your own mix).

Before now, I’m not sure I even knew there was a real difference between white and yellow cake (other than coloring).

One of my favorite blogs posted a wonderful new pumpkin dessert called “Pumpkin Dump Cake“, and I knew I had to try it. (It’s already become a favorite fall recipe in our household!) The recipe calls for a boxed yellow cake mix and I only had a white cake mix on hand. I decided to do a little research to see if my white cake mix would stand in for yellow in this recipe.

It seems that white cake is made with egg whites (no yolks), and sometimes a combination of butter and shortening (to keep it’s white, name-sake color). Yellow cake contains the whole egg and usually all butter, according to this post.

I also learned to make my own cake mix which will undoubtedly save money, be a healthier option, and save a trip to the store on occasions in which I find myself without a boxed cake mix on hand. (You can get that recipe here.) It’s too easy, and I actually know what the ingredients are that we are consuming. That’s a win!

10. I really like working at the library!

I am excited to share that I started a new part-time job! I’ve been in transition for the past couple of years or so, when my full-time job as an aide ended (after ten years). I’ve enjoyed several different jobs in the meantime that each ended after a few months, but all along I’ve thought that a library assistant position would be enjoyable and really suit me as my next job. I submitted many applications over the months, but never even got as far as an interview until now.

I’ve only worked about two weeks, and I can already tell that this is a near-perfect fit for me! While I still feel my most important “career” is housewife & mother (with a side of blogging), it feels good to again be doing a job that I think I’ll really enjoy!

tso-2016-2

11. Seeing TSO live is an absolutely phenomenal experience!

I apologize right now for those of you, like me, who will be slightly (or more) bothered by my not ending on # 10, but I had to add this one!

We were blessed and surprised this month by my husband purchasing tickets for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert! We’ve waited for years for this experience, and I tell you, it was well worth the wait!

Talk about a production!

Lights, loud rock rhythms and guitar licks, leather and long hair (often swaying to the beat of the music), laser-light effects, real fire (whose heat you could actually feel!), realistic video and beautiful background media, incredible choreography, quiet and classical elements, all combine to deliver an incredible concert. The artful fusion of rock, classical and theater provides a holiday show like no other!

One of my favorite things about TSO, is that they do not hold back on singing about the true story of the real meaning of Christmas. Traditional Christmas carols are brought to higher heights (in my opinion), and the musicians keep moving and entertaining throughout the entire show.

If you appreciate theater, dance, different styles of music (including some rather loud rock), and a unique and unforgettable Christmas concert, I hope you get a chance to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra someday. I’m so thankful for this fun family experience together.

tso-2016-4

tso-2016-12

Do I have your attention yet???

tso-2016-3

(If you find this at all appealing, check back a little later, when I will attempt to post a video to enhance your listening and viewing pleasure.)

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It’s been a busy, interesting, and productive couple of months. I wonder what December will bring?

 

 

willow tree angels and jar candle

Surrender to Christmas

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where you can enjoy a variety of short, mostly unedited writings on the prompt of, “surrender”, by a wonderful group of bloggers.

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willow tree angels and jar candle

Today we write on the prompt, “surrender”.

My first thoughts are very serious, deep and even “holy” when I think of the word, “surrender”.

But sometimes it’s best and even right to take a lighter, less pensive approach.

So today I choose to write on surrendering to Christmas.

Some of you may be taken aback or even recoil a bit in distaste. You may judge me for being too frivolous or having my priorities all wrong, but please let me explain.

I have always loved Christmas. It’s been the most special time of year and my favorite holiday for years. I even wrote my very first blog post on my experience with Christmas over the years.

I love it. I love the fun, the lightheartedness, the joy, the candles, the busyness, the baking, the music, wrapping gifts in the wee hours of the morning, the stockings, the decorations, watching my loved ones faces as they open a special gift, the lights, the singing, our Christmas tree and the snow.

putting up our Christmas tree

2015-12-04-00-00-12

colored lights decorating bedroom

Christmas food and hot beverages

 

baking cookies and Christmas decorations

 

Most of all, I love the true message of the real Christmas story.

 

Nativity decorations

As a disclaimer, I am not suggesting we should succumb to stress, greed, or wearing oneself out for the sake of the holiday (been there; done that). I don’t think the celebration was intended to be disliked and even hated, almost, by so many because it has become something negative or surrendering to way too many things we have to do. I don’t think this celebration was meant to be a time when we get so busy and preoccupied that we forget the true meaning and it negatively affects our attitude towards others (I’ve probably done a little too much of that, too), and our health (I used to get a yearly case of laryngitis after Christmas as a rule).

But I do enjoy the holiday. I really enjoy all the festivities and trimmings and activities.

And I intend to surrender, not to the chaos, but to the activities that bring joy to myself and to those around me. I plan to throw myself into this special celebration with all my heart and no guilt.

I especially love that the message Christmas still goes out in a variety venues to much of the lost world. I love that no matter how much some try to stop or squelch it, people all over hear of the God who sent his own son Jesus down as a frail human, in order to live among us and show us the way back to him.

They can see and hear it in Christmas displays, Christmas carols and music, in television shows and in church performances. It is sung by innocent children, polished professionals, church congregations and choirs.

Christmas show on television

Christmas music cd

So my plan this year is to embrace all that this time of year has to offer. I aim to keep things in perspective and in some sort of balance, but rather than fret or stress or bog myself down with questions, burdens and regrets, I want to enjoy this special holiday.

I chose to surrender to Christmas, and to the One who started it all.

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Do you love Christmas? Do you find it stressful and exhausting, or does it give you joy and gladness to celebrate? What can we do differently in order to prioritize the true meaning of the season?

 

 

 

 

hot pink mums

Learning to Enjoy God’s Will

hot pink mums

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Psalm 139:13-16, NLT

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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

trail in woods with morning sun

Journey

trail in woods with morning sun

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

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Life is made of so many journeys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Psalm 23 (NLT)

A psalm of David.

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

*****

 

drinks, vegetables, fruit, and snacks

Eat

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

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“Mom! What is there to eat?”

Sound familiar?

Well, what is there?

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

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

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

It’s all about choices.

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

So it is with our spirits.

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

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

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

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

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

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closed door close-up

Learning Not to Push Open Closed Doors

closed door close-upLately I keep encountering the same message.

Don’t push open doors that God has closed.

Let go of the past.

Move forward into something new.

I’ve encountered this message recently in my various devotional readings. Interesting, as I’ve been encouraged particularly through two entirely different authors from unrelated ministries. One is from a Bible reading plan on YouVersion (the Bible app.), and the other from the Loop devotional emails I receive each week.

I shouldn’t be surprised, though, as I recall that my word of the year is “new”,  (or perhaps “change”). I honestly had forgotten about that in the busyness of these past few months.

As I shared in that earlier post, I have been in a transitional time in my life as far as work (outside the home) is concerned. Interestingly, this trend has continued for the past year, as I enjoyed another part-time job since I wrote the original post which also ended within a few months with re-structuring in the business. I am even now facing the end of my current seasonal position at a local farm, although this time it was to be expected.

As I’ve begun again to think about looking for work and what that might look like, I have thought about the possibility of “pushing on” some old employment doors. Usually, as long as I haven’t received concrete advice or an obvious “warning” feeling not to, I would proceed to “turn over every stone”, or go ahead and knock on any door, trusting God to lead me to and/or away from each job as appropriate.

But more and more, I am sensing that God has new direction for me.

This has been confirmed by those closest to me, as well.

This doesn’t mean that perhaps he will not open an “old” door, but I’m less inclined to push hard on them.

It continues to be both frightening and exciting.

Some time ago, I also wrote another post about what it means when God closes a door in our lives. I hadn’t thought about that one lately, either, but found it interesting to go back and review what God was showing me several months ago. Every once in awhile I need to listen to my own advice!

The thing about it is this: it’s easier and more comfortable to pursue the same old ways we have known. My personality especially likes my familiar routines and ways, and finds changes and new ventures stressful and usually overwhelming.

It takes courage, discipline and a little faith to step out into something new.

I cannot do it on my own, but I pray that with God’s help I will find the path he has for me for this next season.

I want my life to count, and more than that, to give glory back to him.

On this bright and sunny mid-October day, the cold weather that seemed to have too quickly sneaked up on us seems to be taking a little break, and I’m told that temperatures will be in the upper seventies (almost eighty degrees….or about 25 degrees Celsius for the rest of the world!), in the next two days.

With this recent reprieve in the cooler fall weather, as I throw open my windows, I have been inspired to apply this to my emotional and spiritual health, as well.

Instead of just “surviving” or plugging through this next unknown season (especially for job-hunting and finding my true purpose for now), I am encouraged to throw open the windows of my heart and life! Of course there is the important balance of guarding my emotions or my heart, but I wish to confront this time with intentional focus and joy, rather than dread, hopelessness or just haphazard steps.

A few days ago I read a wonderful blog post that so spoke to my heart about change that I kept the tab open all weekend because I knew I’d need to read it again. I received the link in an email from the (in)courage blog to this article called, “Why God Allows Change“, written by guest author, Melanie Davis Porter. It is just what I needed to hear again! Maybe it will encourage you, as well.

Reading this post encouraged and challenged my heart to embrace and follow God’s changes in my life, even when it doesn’t feel like it makes sense.

Thankfully, there are no surprises to God!

I simply need to trust in his proven faithfulness and plan for my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

– Jeremiah 29:11, NLT

Lord, help me to accept the good changes you have in store for me, and not allow the past to dictate or cloud my future. I put my trust in you. Amen.

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Do you find change difficult or exciting? In what area of your life do you need to put your trust in God? Is there a “closed door” that you need to walk away from today?

 

 

mums and pumpkins

10 Things I Learned in September 2016

mums and pumpkins

Another month and another ten lessons. I continue to be amazed at how near the end of each month I consistently feel that I will not have enough items to write about, yet by the time I’m done, I usually end up with a sufficient list. If I’m on top of things, I keep a running list of what I’m learning (the best way to remember all those little things we learn without thinking). But even if I create my list in somewhat of a last-minute fashion, it never ceases to amaze me how much new knowledge I’ve acquired each month!. It really is true that we should never stop learning!

 

10 Things I Learned in September 2016:

 

1. We are actually more productive when we take breaks.afternoon nap on couch

I’ve probably known this to some extent for a long time, but I never realized that it has been backed up scientifically. I will say that the longer I live, the more I know this to be true in my own life. While reading online this month , I came across a link to this informative article, which explains scientific reasons to prioritize breaks as well as other helpful tips on recharging to be more productive.

2. Chlorine is really bad for jewelry (the second worse element?).

I recently heard this while dropping off some jewelry for repairs at our local jewelers. You can read more details in this article (by a different jeweler online). Chlorine or bleach cause a chemical reaction that breaks down the alloys in jewelry. So before you stick your precious hands in a bleach cleaner or jump into that pool, please remove your rings!

3. I really, really dislike throwing out food and deciding if food is still safe to eat is one of my most “un-favorite”decisions.

Recently I had some ground turkey thawing in the refrigerator; two pounds to be exact. As life sometimes goes, I got busy and didn’t cook it quite as soon as I had planned. One evening I warmed up my big frying pan, got out the turkey, and threw a pound in to cook. It was already late and I was tired, but I figured at least if I cooked the meat, it would be safe to wait another day until I could make the recipe I was planning.

But when I opened the second pound to add to my hot pan, it didn’t smell right to me. Knowing that it had been out maybe a day or so longer than recommended, I immediately became worried that it may have been starting to go bad. I was so upset and confused! I hate wasting food; perhaps because we try to stick to a tight food budget, and also because of the way I was raised by my family. My grandparents lived through the days of the depression, and their generation especially learned not to waste anything.

I often work hard to scrimp and save and try to make do with what I have, so throwing a whole two pounds of meat did not make me a happy camper. Even if my money allowed, I would still have a problem with wasting food, as I aim to be a good steward of all God has blessed me with.

So this was really emotionally difficult for me, magnified, I’m sure, by the lateness of the hour and my tiredness. I finally just made the decision to throw out the whole two pounds, just in case it was unsafe to eat. I wrapped it all up in plastic shopping bags and immediately stomped it out to my trash. I was really upset.

I had to realize that the risk of food poisoning or sick stomachs is not worth a couple of pounds of ground turkey meat, yet I was surprised at how upsetting it was to me. It took me a surprisingly long time to get over the incident. This is just another example of something that needs to be in balance, and for which I need to allow myself some grace.

The time I burnt my chicken dogs to a crisp, however, it was obvious even to me that they were trash!

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

My chicken dogs, literally burnt to a crisp!

4. When I go downstairs to get something, I almost always forget what it was.

Does this happen to you? (If you’re anywhere near middle age or older, I can bet that it has.) Since we’ve been middle aged, it seems that my husband and I, more often than not, completely forget the item(s) we’ve gone for as soon as we make it down the stairs to our basement.

Did you know that this is “a thing”? It really made me feel better when a few months ago an older friend at church told me that there was a logical explanation for forgetting things when we cross a threshold (or go downstairs, I guess). It’s referred to as the “doorway effect” or the “boundary effect“, and these articles provide a thorough explanation that will probably make you feel a little less crazy, as it did for me.

Now what was I saying?

5. I can do a two and a half minute plank (and probably many more things I thought were impossible).

At the beginning of September, someone in my online Pilates subscription group posted a challenge to do a plank every night in September before bed. On week one we were to start with one minute, and add thirty seconds each week, ending the month with a week of two-and-a-half minute planks! Well, I agreed and started doing one-minute planks. It was great, and by week two, I felt good, but also quickly realized that the two-and-a-half minute goal was going to be TOUGH! I kept going, though, and must have gotten physically stronger and more determined as I went along. By the last week, it wascat on exercise mat difficult, but I was able to manage a two-and-a-half minute plank for five total days!

So what’s my point? That I’m a super-athlete? Not even close!

My point is that often we can do much more than we think is possible! This is true both physically and emotionally/mentally/spiritually. Sometimes it will be hard; it may even feel (or appear) impossible, but more often than not it can be done. If we are determined, accept the help we need (from others & God), and do the hard work, we can do much more than we give ourselves credit for!

So go out and take a baby step and watch how much you grow.

6. Most commercially canned pumpkin is not made from the traditional carving-type pumpkins we are used to seeing, but is still real pumpkin.

According to this Snopes article, which gives a lot of interesting information about squash and pumpkins, most canned pumpkin is made from “a specific cultivar of pumpkin called Dickinson.” It is not as “pretty” as the pumpkins we associate with all things fall, but is still a variety of pumpkin and was specially cultivated for the purpose of canning pumpkin.

Furthermore, squash and pumpkins are not only in the same family, but can be used in most recipes interchangeably. In my summer/fall of working on a local farm this year, I’ve learned that certain people actually request Hubbard squash to make their “pumpkin” recipes.

What I really find interesting (and slightly disturbing) is how upsetting this has been to some folk. One person (quoted in the same Snopes article), who believed that canned pumpkin is really a mixture of squashes stated that it made him question everything in his life. Really?

I understand and agree with the fact that we, as intelligent, free consumers should know what we are actually purchasing, but if we’re losing sleep over which variety of squash or pumpkin resides in our store-bought can, I suggest we take up gardening, grow our own pumpkins and squash, and never have a worry again.

CSA farm share vegetables and fruit

7. Stored potatoes actually need a certain amount of humidity (and I thought they needed a dry climate)!

I just learned today that if your potatoes tend to begin to shrivel as mine often do when we keep them for awhile, it’s not because it’s too humid, but too dry! I guess I should have come to this conclusion myself, since shriveling is generally due to losing water, but somehow I missed that.

Our basement tends to be a little humid, especially in the summer months, so we generally run a dehumidifier. My friend who happens to be my boss this summer on the farm (also where we get our CSA farm share), told me that the dehumidifier is actually the problem when it comes to making my potatoes last! Hopefully this information will help us to store our potatoes better and not waste as much.

Here’s an article which includes some great potato-storing information, especially for winter-time. (Make sure you follow the link included for other innovative potato storing tips, even if you, like me, don’t have a root cellar or ideal storage area.)

8. The area which makes up the top part of our chest (right beneath our neck), is called the decolletage.

Well, that’s roughly how my friend described it. This came up in a conversation amongst a group of my woman friends the other night.

Accordingto Wikipedia, the decolletage is,

“the upper part of a woman’s torso, comprising her neck, shoulders, back and chest, that is exposed by the neckline of her clothing. However, the term is most commonly applied to a neckline that reveals or emphasizes cleavage.”

decollatage

Interesting. And this:

“Décolletage is a French word which is derived from décolleter, meaning to reveal the neck.”

Since it’s getting colder these past few first fall days, I think I’ll be keeping my decolletage under cover. I’m so relieved that I now know the correct name of the body part hidden beneath my infinity scarves.

9. We really do not care for turban squash after all.

As much as we generally like squash, and try to be open to trying and appreciating different types of foods, we as a family decided that we really don’t care for turban squash.  I’ve probably tried one each fall, as I like the variety and trying new foods, but I honestly don’t recall our previous experiences. All I can tell you is that I’m just not sure it’s worth the time and effort to try to find a way to prepare turban squash in a way that we enjoy.

It’s such a pretty, colorful squash, and there are many recipes that call for somewhat elaborately stuffing this interesting gourd. But since I’m still not convinced we will like it, I may just pass on that and call it a day. I learned growing up (and have continued to feel strongly about), not wasting food and learning to eat and appreciate as many healthy foods as possible, but I think in this case, I have to give myself permission to dislike or refrain from eating turban squash.

If you happen to have a favorite recipe for turban squash that you’re just dying to share, please let me know so I can give it one last-ditch effort…..or better yet, invite me over to your house and prepare it for me!

turban squash pile

10. “Among” and “amongst” mean the same thing and are both acceptable, but they may be viewed differently by others.

In writing this post, I had to add one more item (causing my “type A” personality to feel so much more comfortable with this nice, even number).

I’ve noticed that when I type the word, “amongst” on my computer, it underlines it as an incorrect word. So today I decided to look it up.

It seems that both words are valid and mean essentially the same, but according to this OxfordWords Blogs post, one may be more common depending on where you are speaking, and it’s even possible (at least in the US), that the word you chose may affect how you come across to your listeners. The post states that:

“in US English, amongst is now seen as old-fashioned, and even ‘pretentious’. If you are a US English speaker, therefore, and you don’t want to come across to your audience as out of date or, heaven forbid, linguistically la-di-da, then it’s advisable to opt for among.”

Well, that clears things up, and while I do not wish to appear haughty in any way, I just added the word, “amongst” to my computer dictionary. Now I will not have to be amongst those who are questioning whether it’s a word anymore.

*****

What have you learned this month? Do you have anything to share about vegetables, necklines, forgetting and/or taking breaks? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

What Am I Choosing to Collect?

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday, a fun and inspirational link-up with many other bloggers who write for five minutes, unedited, on a given prompt.

(Confession time: I’m working on sticking to the five minute, unedited “rule”, imperfectly, but have grown towards these goals as a “recovering perfectionist”. That’s one of the reasons I chose to participate in this weekly challenge.)

Today’s prompt is, “collect”. I hope you are encouraged or inspired, too.

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Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

 

What am I choosing to collect?

A life is full of collections, some of physical things, such as stones, shells, books, stamps, jewelry, coffees or mason jars.

But every day we are collecting things we cannot see.

What am I choosing to collect … emotionally, mentally, even spiritually?

I often make poor choices (or automatic, it seems), to collect regrets, discontent, complaints, stress, grief, hurt or negativity.

But I wish to collect something better, a collection of unseen gifts that I can share through my life with those around me, and pass on to my family and future generations.

With God’s help, I would rather be intentional about collecting good things.

I choose to collect thankfulness, cheerfulness, peace, happy memories, good thoughts, positive words, grace … simple treasures that I wish to keep.

I do have a choice as to what I collect.

 

” And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” 

– Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

 

 

We can make a positive impact on our own lives, and of those around us.

 

 

” The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG)

 

 

What are you choosing to collect?

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