five-minute clock photo

What Can I Do in Five Minutes?

five-minute clock photo

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

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Five minutes.

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

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

What can I do in five minutes?

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

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

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

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

That precious five minutes.

But I can be intentional.

I can make a choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is up to me.

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

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

*****

What Can You Do in Five Minutes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun's rays shining through tree branches with blue sky and clouds

Listen.

Sun's rays shining through tree branches with blue sky and clouds

 

Today’s post is linked up with others at Five Minute Friday, where you may enjoy the five-minute, mostly unedited writings of other bloggers on the prompt, “listen.”

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As I think about the word, “listen”, many thoughts come to mind. That, in itself, should tell me something.

Do I really listen?

Are there too many thoughts, ideas, concerns, “to-do’s”, emotions, reactions, and distractions for me to even hear at all?

Sometimes I can’t hear myself think.

Often I don’t really listen to what others are saying to me.

At times, I feel it’s so difficult to hear God’s still, small voice.

And so, I need to stop.

I need to clear away the cobwebs from my mind and heart.

I need to “pull the log out of my own eye”, so that my ears will also be open to hear others.

I need to stop striving and trust the One who holds it all together, yet created me and knows the innermost thoughts and feelings and longings of my heart.

Let’s practice stopping…..and really listening.

May we be surprised at what we hear.

*****

 

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned in August 2016

I was hoping to publish this before I go to bed tonight. See, I didn’t realize what the date was until I got to church today, and where I was reminded that it’s 9/11. The thing is, at first I thought, “How can I publish a blog post today that’s not specifically honoring that first, fateful 9/11 day?” I will probably write a more specific, serious post on that theme in the future (when I’m not caught totally off guard), but today is not the day.

As I thought about it, I decided that this “looking back” post about what I learned last month is actually somewhat appropriate, even for a serious day such as this. I’m beginning to really like these posts, as it’s a lesson in stopping and considering what new things I learned in the previous month. I usually start out thinking there won’t be enough interesting things to fill a blog post, but then surprise myself by ending up with plenty. I enjoy this habit, as it causes me to reflect on my days.

So even though some of my points are less than serious, I’m thankful today for all the moments of my life, especially in light of all the sacrifice and loss that so many experienced on that unforgettable September 11th. In gratefulness to all those who came together in unity, kindness and strength on that day, I wish to stop and reflect on my own life; the troublesome and the mundane, the pleasant and the remarkable.

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned In August 2016:

 

1.”Unthaw” is actually a word, and means the same as “thaw”.

Recently I came across the use of the word, “unthaw” in a recipe, and proceeded to think that the author obviously did not have a clear understanding that the proper term should be, “thaw”. Logically, it makes sense, if “thaw” means for something to go from freezing to room temperature, then wouldn’t “unthaw” mean the opposite? And is it even a word? (My spell-checker doesn’t seem to think so.) I’ve seen others comment on this as well, so it’s not just me. But wishing to know the truth, I took a few minutes, and discovered to my surprise, that EITHER is acceptable, and they mean the same thing! Here is a dictionary explanation. So now we can stop judging others for their use of either term, and we can all be friends.

relaxing with feet up on kayak on lake shore

2. I really seem to “need” time in nature.

I’ve always known this, but I’ve really felt it recently, especially for the last half of this summer. Maybe it’s because we took an earlier vacation this year, or possibly because it was shorter and we jumped into “real life” again before I was fully rested. Either way, I have felt such a strong desire which can only be described as a “longing” to get away, or at least go out and spend some quality time in nature. Whenever I do so much as take a hike in the woods, or spend time near water, or even enjoy a simple campfire, I physically and emotionally give a sigh and feel relaxed. For the ultimate satisfaction for my desire or “need” to be outdoors, my preference is to spend a week or so in a cabin by a lake. (We have one favorite, in particular, but several that have been great.) I feel so refreshed when I have ample time for just “soaking it in”. The longer I wait between such lovely vacation visits, the more it seems I need my nature “tank” filled. I guess I just really enjoy and am thankful for God’s wonderful creation.

 

One bridge at Dufferin Islands

3. Raising young-adult children is more challenging than I thought.

Yes, I have two older sons, one 17 and one 19, and yes, it is physically much, much easier than when they were little. We really enjoy having older children, but have definitely noticed two things. One, our conflicts are much more complicated than when they are little, and two, it’s really hard to allow them to grow up and accept their own consequences in order to grow to maturity and not live “enabled” lives. It’s often hard to know when to require obedience because they live under our roof, and when to let them make their own decisions (as adult or almost-adult individuals), and let them fail or fall. Often, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but I now know that it all requires my trust in God and a great deal of wisdom and prayer!

 

4. When cutting ANY hot peppers, use gloves!

Why oh why, did I NOT remember this lesson from approximately this same time last year???!!! I got some little jalapeno peppers from the farm stand, and although we’re not avid “hot pepper eaters”, we occasionally enjoy recipes with a little “kick”. Knowing that jalapenos were not considered that hot (I have enjoyed them in restaurant recipes often), I proceeded to cut them up to freeze for later use……with my bare hands. After a few minutes, I started to feel the burn, and wondered if I should have worn gloves. As the minutes ticked by, I realized too late that it was starting to really hurt, but at that point there seemed to be no point of turning back. So I suffered needlessly (and stupidly, I must say!), even though I had already learned this lesson in the past. I guess that is a lesson in itself: Remember (or record?) the lessons you have learned, and don’t repeat the same dumb process that got you there!

 

5. When microwave reheating in containers with a plastic lid, if you don’t allow steam to escape, the lid will be ruined.

This is another simple lesson I should have known from past experience. If you don’t allow for built-up heat and steam to escape, the lid “sucks” down into the container and usually is bent beyond repair. (Sigh.) I did it again.

melted/warped plastic lid

glass storage with bent, melted lid 2

6. We really are not “beach people”.

My family loves nature and the outdoors, and we even really like spending time by water. When we do go swimming, we really enjoy it a lot. But the reality is we don’t get to as much as we’d like, and when we have a choice, going to the beach is usually not our first “perfect summer day” of choice. Sometimes swimming doesn’t seem to make it to the top of our list. This summer we swam a grand total of one time (unless you count “creek-walking”, in which case we’ve gone twice).

creek-walk with family

7. You can freeze tomatoes whole without blanching them.

I haven’t a lot of experience with freezing tomatoes. I’ve made some sauce and some homemade soup to freeze, but I don’t believe I’ve ever frozen plain tomatoes. This summer at my farm-stand job, a customer was looking for plum tomatoes to freeze. She said they are best for this purpose because they have less juice. I asked her about her method, and she said she just halves them and throws them in a freezer bag. Huh.

I went home and looked for more information online, and sure enough, this is a valid, and much easier method than the rather more time-consuming and complicated, “old-fashioned” process of blanching and peeling. Here‘s a nice blog post about this. (I actually just washed and halved mine, threw them a freezer bag in a single layer, and called it a day. A few of them stuck together a bit, but one little “clunk” on a counter and they’re good to go.)

frozen plum tomatoes without blanching

Frozen plum tomatoes “the lazy way” (no blanching or flash-freezing).

8. There is a better way to express the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

I like zucchini to cook and eat, but what I really like is to bake with it. This is definitely the preference of my non-zucchini-loving sons. I imagine you’ve enjoyed some nice, home-baked zucchini bread, but what you really ought to try is zucchini bread or muffins with chocolate! Adding chocolate chips to zucchini bread definitely takes it up a notch, and by adding cocoa, chocolate zucchini bread or cake is the ultimate in deliciousness!

This summer, I think I’ve discovered the best and easiest way to express the liquid from zucchini! You can read a more detailed description in this post. Happy zucchini-baking!!!

hand-grated zucchini in glass dish

 

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I hope you found today’s reflections informative or at least mildly entertaining. What did you learn this August?

 

water with rocks and foliage

Heal My Heart, Use Me to Heal Others, Please Heal Our Land

water with rocks and foliage

Today is Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is “heal”. I’ve decided that I’d like to write this post as a prayer. Won’t you join me?

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“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

-Psalm 139:23,24 (NLT)

 

Lord, my heart needs to be healed.

I cannot mend it on my own. I need your help.

Let me trust in you to do the work.

Your faithfulness has been my rock.  Your loving-kindness has been a refuge.

Let me hide myself in you, until I am abundantly sure of your undying love for me.

I ask you to heal my heart.

 

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

– James 5:16 (NLT)

 

Lord, please use my healed heart to minister to others.

I don’t want to live a self-centered, meaningless life, but one that is rich in goodness and reaches out to those around me.

Here’s my healed heart, not perfect, but being perfected by the One who made me.

I offer it to you as a gift and a tool to heal those around me.

Let me be sensitive to the needs of others so that you may flow through me.

Use me to heal others.

 

 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

-2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

 

Lord God, our land needs your touch.

Help us to humbly get on our knees and seek your face.

We ask for your forgiveness and mercy on behalf of our stubborn, rebellious land.

Only you can truly set us free.

Please heal our land.

*****

 

 

 

 

path into woods

What Path Will I Take?

20160622_102409

 

What path will I take?

There are so many choices…..or do I have a choice at all?

When I think about trying to do right, trying to find God’s will for my life, or trying to chose the path of my life, it’s sometimes overwhelming.

It can feel I have no choice, or that the options are too many and lead to confusion and lack of peace.

Will I hear God’s voice? Will I discern his direction? Will I really make something of my life?

Although we could debate on whether or not there is just one right path for our life, or whether we have many choices, I think that some things are clear.

If we have chosen to follow Jesus; if we’ve given our lives to God; if we are full of doubts and are just asking him for help…..he will not fail us.

God promises to direct our path.

He said that he would be with us.

God’s Word lets me know that he will show me the right way to go.

I just need to trust him and follow the path.

Let the words of the Psalms give you peace and courage today:

“Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path.”

-Psalm 37:34a

“Lead me in the right path, O Lord,
    or my enemies will conquer me.
Make your way plain for me to follow.”

-Psalm 5:8

“You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.”

-Psalm 18:36

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.”

-Psalm 23:3

“Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.”

-Psalm 25:4

“The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.”

Psalm 25:8

“Who are those who fear the Lord?
    He will show them the path they should choose.”

-Psalm 25:12

“Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path

Psalm 27:11a

 

He has a purpose for my life.

My life does have meaning.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated.

As long as I’m following him, God will show me the meaningful and fulfilling path that he laid out for me before I was even born.

 

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.”

-Psalm 139:13-14

Lord, help me to live with intention and follow your path.

*****

This post is written for part of the Five Minute Friday link-up. Join me there to discover what other bloggers are writing about the prompt, “path”.

All scriptures above are quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

 

 

 

Olympic Rings 2016 (Rio)

Whose Team Are You On?

Olympic Rings 2016 (Rio)

I’m joining my blogging friends over at Five Minute Friday today to write for five minutes on the prompt, “team”.

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Whose team are you on?

If you’re like me, you may be thinking that you really weren’t a part of many teams, especially if you were not that “into” sports.

But think about it.

We’re all on a team. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’re part of more teams than you were aware of.

How about the team of your family, the team you work with, your large church team and smaller community/small group teams? You have a team of friends (hopefully some close ones), and a more casual team of acquaintances. Can you be a team member anywhere you find yourself, with those around you who need a team-mate?

My encouragement to all of us today is to be part of the team we are on.

Wherever we are; whoever we are with; just BE part of the team!

Be all there.

Be present.

Be a participant.

Be a cheer-leader.

Be a good friend.

Be a wonderful wife.

Be the best mother.

Be a helpful co-worker.

Be that kind stranger.

You and I are all on many teams.

Let’s do whatever we can and whatever we’re good at; let’s be whatever we are meant to be on our “teams”.

Your team needs you.

*****

 

my cat Buster and I

What Makes Me Happy?

Today I’m linking up with some wonderful bloggers at FiveMinuteFriday, writing on the prompt, “happy”.

 

my cat Buster and I

Me and Buster.

Happy.

It’s a simple word, but why is it often so difficult to attain in our daily life?

As a somewhat serious person and a Christian, the obvious way to discuss happiness is to contrast this emotion with the deep, everlasting joy that can be ours no matter what the circumstances. I would also mention that if you are not able to feel much happiness, please take care of yourself until you can, and/or get the appropriate help as needed.

But besides all that serious stuff, sometimes I feel like it’s good and healthy, and helpful to just do something everyday that makes you feel happy.

No, our true happiness isn’t based on emotion, but we are real, flesh and bone people with real, sometimes raw emotions. It’s a good practice to care for our body, mind and soul, as well as our spirit. And it’s OK to “help” our emotions along in a practical way.

enjoy the little things

So here are some things that “help” my emotions to feel happy:

  • a nice, hot cup of good coffee
  • some slow, quiet time to myself
  • ice-cream (yes; I even scare my husband with how much this helps me)
  • some “girlfriend” time
  • spending time in nature, God’s wonderful creation
  • doing something creative
  • getting some rest and/or a good sleep
  • reading a good book
  • watching a good movie or favorite TV show
  • petting one (or both) of my cats
  • doing some exercise that I love
  • looking at and enjoying photos, the memories of my life
  • wearing something that makes me smile
  • watching “my” humingbirds
  • doing something with my family

These are just a sample of things I do that make me feel happy. And when we feel happy, it helps us to move in a positive direction and do the more important things in our lives.

My Bible verse-of-the-day today is this:

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

– Ephesians 5:1-2, NLT

 

I believe that one way we can “imitate God” and “live a life of love” as Jesus did, is to just be happy.

It’s a decision, and one that some of us need to be more purposeful about.

Here’a to a happy day!

 

*****

Some things to think about (and comment, if you please):

What do you do to help you to feel happy? Do you notice that if you make yourself feel happy, you are more able to cope and do the things you know you should do? If you’re a Christ-follower, do you think that Jesus had a mostly “happy” demeanor?

 

 

 

 

water and sky reflection

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016

It seems like such a long time since I wrote a “What I Learned” post. Well, it’s time for a look at the past two lovely summer months of June and July. Some points are serious, some are completely not serious, and some are just other “stuff”. Here goes!

 

water and sky reflection

 

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016:

 

1. Turning 50 was both harder and better than I thought.

I guess you could say I celebrated a “milestone” birthday this June, as I turned fifty years old. I’ve never been one to mind much about my age or getting older, but I must admit that this half century mark did hit me a little harder than I thought it would. I had a few moments (like on the evening before, when I realized that I had only hours left in my forties), that made me feel “old”. But overall, I decided to live it up and make the whole thing into an ongoing party. I announced my birthday age online (on Facebook), and invited my friends who are also turning fifty this year to join me in celebrating…..all year long! If you can make a big deal out of any birthday, I think this is the one! I think I’ve earned a little extra celebrating for living for one half century.

50 Years Well Lived

 

2. An hour or so on (or by) water will make up for several hours of stress.

When I originally wrote this point, I had just spent a couple hours with one of my girlfriends, part of which consisted of a lovely hour kayaking on a local “pond” (think “small lake”). I don’t remember how I was feeling at the time, except that afterwards, I was so de-stressed! The combination of some good exercise, the relaxing atmosphere, and time spent catching up with a friend were invaluable and very therapeutic! I’ve always known this about spending time near the water, but especially noticed on that day what a positive change it caused in my body, mind and soul.

kayaking with water fowl in background

3. Bunnies are so cute!

OK, who doesn’t think bunnies are cute??? (Well, there are probably a few gardeners or farmers who are not particularly thrilled with their eating habits, but besides that…..) Each spring and summer, we seem to have a few rabbits who live in or at least near our yard. We really enjoy watching them. One evening while we were eating our supper, we saw one, then two…..then three bunnies hopping and chasing each other all over our neighbor’s yard. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They seemed to be having an awfully fun time!

three rabbits on the lawn

 

4. I like almond milk better than “regular” (cow’s) milk.

A few months ago, I started regularly purchasing a small quantity of almond milk for myself. I think I had heard that it was easier to digest than regular cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a try. I quickly grew to like it. I also discovered that it has twice the calcium and less sugar than regular dairy milk (just read the labels), so it seemed like a good thing. One day when we had no almond milk, my son poured me a glass of 1% cow’s milk. I was surprised to have the realization that it tasted “different” now, and I no longer liked it as well as my almond milk, even though I grew up as a (cow’s)”milk drinker”. Luckily, my three men haven’t acquired the taste, so it remains affordable enough for me to keep on hand.

5. Some quality friendships are only for a season, but that’s OK (and it doesn’t make them any less special).

I’m not sure what made me think of this exactly, but it is a more positive way for me to think about relationships that seem to have grown “stale” or that are simply too distant in physical miles to maintain on a regular basis. I’m a faithful person by nature, and also feel very sentimental about any relationships I’ve had in my life, especially those with friends with whom I’ve been fairly close. I have come to realize that just because a close friendship seems to have “ended” or is just not practical for this stage in life, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a “real” or meaningful relationship; it may just have been special for a time. I can live with this.

2016-06-15 01.32.32

6. I really like my Himalayan salt lamp.

Have you joined the craze of owning a Himalayan salt lamp yet? I tend to be somewhat cynical of ads about products like this having real health benefits, but after a little research, it seems there may just be something to it. I read an article on WebMD that gives some interesting information, after my online Pilates instructor wrote a post about her thoughts on Himalayan salt lamps, and I decided to give one a try. Since it was birthday time, I asked for it for a gift, which my sons graciously purchased for me. I’m not sure, but it seems like I’ve awakened feeling a little less groggy after using it in our bedroom at night, perhaps. I am still formulating an opinion as to whether or not it really works, but at the very least, it creates a nice ambiance in our room (and makes a great “night-light” if one of us comes up to bed and the lights are already off).

7. A thoughtful surprise gift means so much to me.

When it comes to love languages, gifts has always been one of mine. I love to both give and receive gifts, and I’ve known this about myself ever since I was a child. Shortly before my fiftieth birthday this June, a friend I met through an exercise program online asked me for my address, and wouldn’t you know, on the exact date of my birthday, I received a small package from her. She learned about my special birthday and wanted to bless me with a piece of handmade jewelry. She sent me a cross necklace, with the words “faith” and “believe” on either side of the pendant. I was so touched and blessed and had to share my precious gift on social media. This is a great reminder to go ahead and just do that thoughtful thing when it comes to mind, because you never know how it could make someone’s day. I know that this gift sure made my day special!

surprise birthday gift in mail

(If you’re interested in seeing my friend’s line of hand-made inspirational jewelry, here’s a link to her Etsy shop.)

8. Almond milk creamer should NOT be used as infant formula.

I couldn’t resist adding this one! For the record, I do NOT have an infant right now, and furthermore, even as a young mom, I would NOT have tried this. But on the back of my almond creamer container (of a well-known brand), I noticed this interesting disclaimer in red letters:

warning on almond milk creamer

“NOT TO BE USED AS INFANT FORMULA”

Well, duh!

I guess someone, somewhere must have thought it was a good idea at some point…..or else the company is just proactively avoiding a crazy lawsuit. So just in case you’ve ever wondered, don’t try this one at home, kids!

9. You can pack a lot of fun into a one-week vacation. 

This summer our family vacation was special, but a little shorter than usual. Due to the fact that our sons were both working, we shortened our time to just one week away (while my husband and I took some extra time off during the next week at home). We were happy that they were able to take the time off to come with us, as we know that our family vacations with them are limited as they grow older.

To some, this may sound like plenty of time, but due to the distance we usually travel to visit with family (a day’s drive to get to my parents’ home in Ontario), we end up losing the two days spent traveling to and from our destination. This time, we arrived at my parents’ house before they came home from a trip in order to have some “alone” time with just our sons (and to keep an eye on cats and plants). When my parents arrived home, we welcomed them and enjoyed a couple days with them. Next we crossed back over the border and spent the last couple days with my sister.

In that single week, we managed to cram in a lot of pretty good stuff.

We relaxed and read some, watched a movie, visited my Grandma, shopped for special Canada “treats”, ate out a lot, drank more than our fair share of Tim Horton’s coffee, picnicked at Dufferin Islands near Niagara Falls, visited Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls (part museum; mostly tropical bird emporium), enjoyed a leisurely shopping day in quaint Niagara-On-the-Lake (including driving by the house where my dad’s parents lived), “caught up” with a dear friend,  shared a day out with my sister (out to a nice dinner for my fiftieth birthday, spending time near the lake, visiting and photographing my cousin’s church and eating wonderful homemade ice-cream), picked fresh blueberries, had a campfire, learned how to “creek walk” (see next post), made some cards, created some music, and enjoyed real buffalo wings at least twice. I can’t believe how much fun we packed into our vacation week!

Dufferin Islands sign

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Entrance to Bird Kingdom, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Bird Kingdom

Niagara Falls barrel photo

homemade ice cream

Sisters together at Crystal Beach, Ontario

10. “Creek-walking” is a blast!

While visiting my sister and her family in the state of NY, we learned the skill of “creek-walking”. We piled into our two vehicles, made our way to an access point at a local creek, inflated several inner tubes, and began to take turns floating down the shallow river. It was fun, mildly exhilarating at times, and quite funny (the larger adults like me ended up getting stuck on the river bottom in shallow areas). Some of the older boys managed to get so far ahead down the river that we sent my husband and a helper out after them; not knowing they cut through and walked back, we nearly lost each other. But in the end it was just good, clean, country fun! We only lost one tube to the jagged rocks and sticks that were poking out, which was a fair trade off for a memorable adventure together.

floating down the creek in tubes

Learning to “creek-walk” with our family was a blast!

11. A good boss is better than a “first-choice” job.

This is a lesson I’ve been learning myself these past couple of years with my various job changes. My husband and I are also teaching this to our sons right now, who are training for one of their first summer jobs. Although there are parts of the job they do not care for, we have been discussing the fact that the good supervisors they seem to have outweigh any parts of the job that they currently “dislike”. Sometimes in work and even in life we have to accept the “bad” or “imperfect” along with the pleasant and the preferred. We are thankful to be working for bosses who seem to genuinely care for their employees and treat them well.

12. Amazon really looks like they’re “taking over the world”.

Here’s the photo “proof”:

three Amazon delivery trucks

It looks like Amazon is taking over the world! 😉

This was the view outside of our window one fine Sunday afternoon. We order a fair amount of product from Amazon, but not enough to justify three trucks showing up all at once in front of our house. Since there was nothing for us this time, we never did quite figure out what was going on that day. It sure gave us something to talk about.

13. It’s really important to check your sales receipt.

I can’t say that I always do it, but I try to check my sales receipt after shopping, especially for grocery orders in which I was supposed to receive a certain discount or cash back award. Recently, I have been shopping at our local supermarket a bit more, due to lack of time to travel to a further store, and because I seem to be getting some pretty decent deals (see next post, as well). I noticed that on several of the last few trips I did not receive the correct price or in one case, a sizable cash-back offer, but thankfully their customer service reps took care of it without question. It makes me happier to shop there knowing this, but I will still have to be sure to try to check each receipt. Mistakes can happen!

14. Getting a huge gas discount makes grocery shopping worthwhile.

One of the the benefits we’ve been taking advantage of recently, is the “gas points” earned for spending money at our local supermarket. They have a gas station next door, and depending on the amount you accumulate in purchases (along with some “special” awards for extra points), we have been able to save a decent amount on some fill-ups. The best one we earned so far was 90 cents off, and we just missed a whole $1.30 discount, because we didn’t realize when some of the points were expiring. I’m finding out that even if this is not always the cheapest store for grocery prices, the gas discount is a worthwhile additional savings!

15. Your poop reveals a lot about your health.

Sorry for the “TMI”, but recently I had seen this chart online, which I guess is frequently used in medical situations to determine the “quality” of one’s bowel movements. After the second time, the chart caught my attention, and somehow (please don’t even ask), I got to reading some interesting and informative posts about what our “poop” reveals about our overall health. It turns out this “everyday event” can be a real indicator of some health concerns. For some reason, it’s not something we ordinarily like to discuss, but it may be worth a read……especially if you are prone to reading in the bathroom. 😉

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Well, once again I have surprised myself with how many new things I’m learning. What have you been learning and discovering this summer?

garden shop with flowers in front

Hidden

garden shop with flowers in front

Flourishing beauty.

A Five Minute Friday Post

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Today I’m writing about the word, “hidden”.

The first thing that comes to mind is a song by that title and the post I wrote about it earlier on my blog, as it had impacted me so greatly. It speaks of how if we have given our lives to Christ, we can trust that they are hidden in his care.

I believe that is the foundation upon which we can build what I wish to share today.

 

How many things do we keep hidden in our lives?

We all have secrets and innermost thoughts and feelings that we do not share. We often have things in our past that we’d rather not think about, whether they are the results of our own sins, the wrong actions of others, or just the hard circumstances of living this earthly life.

I’m not suggesting that we bare all and use no discretion, but I’d like to propose that we don’t leave things hidden in our hearts and lives.

If it’s meant to remain private, then let’s face our hard places, get appropriate help when needed, and move on. If it’s an area that is affecting a relationship in our lives that needs fixing, let’s be vulnerable and open up to that person, trusting that things will be better as we smooth out the hurts and misunderstandings and grow closer together.

Most often it seems to me, hidden things that haven’t been dealt with remain buried for a time, but they fester until they explode either physically,  emotionally, or mentally. They don’t just go away. They cause hurt and destruction in our own lives and the lives of others we care about.

But if we open our hearts, ask God to shine the light of his truth inside of our dark places, and ask for help, counsel or wisdom from someone we can trust (even a professional at times), we can bring healing and growth first to our own lives and hearts. Then the resulting beauty will flourish and spread to those around us.

So let’s not keep the hidden places in our hearts; open up and let the healing and flourishing begin.

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uncooked pizzas

How to Get Help By Asking

 

uncooked pizzas

My two-pizza deal.

 

The Tale of Two Pizzas, a Used Car Battery, and What We Can Learn From All of This

 

Yesterday I had a really nice thing happen to me at the supermarket.

I felt so happy and inspired, that I had to share this simple story… for two reasons.

One, it was truly one of those nice little blessings for which I am very thankful, and two, it shows how we often receive by simply asking.

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As I was perusing the vegetable and deli section of our supermarket, I came upon the shelf where the store-made, ready-to-bake calzones and pizzas are located. I was looking forward to taking advantage of a special the store was running, in which if I bought one fresh calzone, I would receive a free fresh pizza. A perfect treat for this Friday’s dinner.

But alas, there were no more calzones to be had.

Not to give up immediately, I looked around for a store worker, and saw a young man stocking shelves nearby. I approached him and asked him if there were any more calzones available to purchase for the special. He in turn asked someone behind the meat counter, and they both looked over at another gentleman who was apparently shopping. The young store guy approached this other man (who was dressed in regular clothes), and they both came over to help me.

I found out the man who was shopping was an employee (must have been a supervisor or manager of some sort), who said he had, “just taken his badge off”, and was shopping. I told him my dilemma apologetically (since he was off of work already), but his pleasant response was in the spirit of true customer service.

First he told me that there were probably not going to be any more calzones today. I said, “OK” with a slight hesitation and a little disappointment, but I would have been OK with this outcome. It was his next question that caught me off guard in a good sort of way. He then said, “What can I do to make this right?”.

I wasn’t sure what to suggest, and so he then offered me a buy-one-pizza, get-one-free deal, and asked if that would make me happy. I told him it certainly would, so he had me give his name to the cashier and said to tell them that he had OK’d the substitution. I thanked him, and with a renewed bounce in my step (and two new pizzas in my cart), off I went to complete my grocery shopping.

You see, I could have just walked (or stomped), off in disappointment without any calzones or pizza in my cart. I would have gotten over it, but it would have left a slightly negative taste in my mouth. But by taking a little effort to politely ask for help, I was blessed with an even better deal (the pizza was less expensive than the calzone I was originally going to buy). I felt happy and cared for as a customer, and very satisfied, and can now happily recommend this particular market to others!

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My husband had a similar experience a little while ago at the auto parts store. He had purchased a car battery which stopped working, and in bringing it in to pick up a replacement, he was told that it was just days out of warranty.

He had one of our sons with him, whom he looked over at and basically said, “Now watch and learn.”

He spoke to someone who worked there (probably asked for a supervisor), told him of his problem, and politely asked what they could do for him since it was so close to the warranty date.

This store employee was able to offer him a substantial discount on a new battery, even though technically it was past warranty. My husband was also very pleased and now feels even better about supporting this business.

You see, by the letter of the law, in either case we should have just been “satisfied” going without, but with a little effort and going out of our comfort zones to ask, we were each blessed with something slightly undeserved.

My husband often speaks of how his father taught him to “haggle” or bargain with people at yard sales and such. He was probably embarrassed sometimes when he was young (OK, he said he literally slouched down in the car seat on some occasions), but in the end, he was taught the value of saving money and simply asking for something better than what was offered.

I’m not suggesting we should not ever be willing to pay a fair price for an item without any bargaining; it’s just that although some of us are not naturally comfortable with this practice, many people or businesses would rather profit monetarily a little less in order to gain your trust, confidence and loyalty. There are those in business who truly wish to meet your needs as a customer, and at the very least, it’s a practical business practice to please one’s customers.

It won’t always work out in our favor. We need to be courteous and polite, even if the answer is, “no”.

But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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Now let’s think about some spiritual applications.

The Bible clearly tells us to ask and we will receive.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

– Matthew 7:7 NLT

It also tells us that sometimes we act selfishly and foolishly, but still don’t have something because we simply haven’t asked God.

“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.”

-James 4:2 NLT

To provide balance, the scriptures also guide us in the principles of being content, living with thanksgiving, treating others with respect, and enduring hardship and persevering through the difficulties that will come in life.

I’m not going to get all theological here, but let’s just simplify things for a moment.

As a Christian, I truly believe that God not only knows and loves me, but he knows best what I need. Sometimes he will give me an obvious blessing or even a miracle, to teach me of his eternal care and his unlimited power.

Other times, like a loving but firm parent, he will answer my request with a “no” or perhaps a “wait”, because he cares less about my comfort, and more about my growth as a person. Sometimes my suffering will result in more good (for myself and/or others), and he sees the bigger picture.

So why not just ask God, just as a child would ask a parent, and patiently and thankfully await his response.

There are some stipulations, such as making sure what I’m asking for is not going against his commandments or his nature, and making sure my heart is right in order to make a wise request. But just as a child with a parent, sometimes I will receive a blessing I don’t deserve or wouldn’t have otherwise received had I not asked.

How we enjoy those moments!

At other times, I will be treated like the loved daughter that I am to God, and will have to wait or even give up my desire. In those situations, I will have the opportunity to learn trust and patience. Sometimes I will have to endure hardship or discipline to make me a stronger, more mature person.

Often the child does not know what is best for them, but a wise and caring parent can see a bigger picture.

God our Father really does know what is best.

In times of suffering and difficulty, or even just minor discomfort, I will gain “tools” which I can use to bless and help others in similar circumstances. I can deepen my understanding for others in difficult situations, and offer them heart-felt compassion and a listening ear or timely advice.

So whether it’s for practical reasons like saving our hard-earned cash, or to receive a non-material or spiritual blessing, I encourage you to go ahead and ask.

You just never know what good may come of it.

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