Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Living a Frugal Life

I mentioned last week Crystal Paine's webinar and how much I had taken away from that hour...including the motto "Live frugally so you give generously."  That simple phrase continues to impact me.  I want to be not only willing but also able to give generously - to give of my time, my talents and, yes, my treasure.  I think there is much wisdom in the idea of living frugally so I am able to do all three.  What does it look like to be frugal with my time...or my talents...and my money? 

The definition of frugal includes:   sparing with regard to money or food (oh my - one more way to consider being frugal!); careful; prudent, sparing and unwasteful.

My time.  I certainly don't need to be wasteful with my time.  And I want to be prudent how I schedule my to-do list and the commitments I make with my time.  If every hour is scheduled, and even over-scheduled, I will not able to give my time.  Every week opportunities arise where I can give my time to meet someone else's need or to simply be a blessing.   The senior who doesn't drive but needs to get to the pharmacy.  Oh, and then the grocery store.  A friend who would like to share her heart.  Sitting with an acquaintance during medical tests because they have no family close by.  And plenty of other little bits of needed time in between.  I want to have time available to give - and to give generously.

My talents.  This looks a bit like giving my time but when I am asked to use my gifts and talents,
as much as I am able I want to be able to do so.  This might be simply planning the next Sunday school class outing (and they do love their outings!) or organizing another ministry related activity.  It might be the Lord laying on my heart to lead a Bible study or plan a missions trip.  It might be any number of things, but if I am already depleted and spread too thin - meaning, I have not been frugal and careful making commitments and becoming involved - then I am not able to give generously with my talents.

My money.  The result of not being careful and frugal with my resources is much easier to identify.  I am unable to give (above my tithe, etc.), unable to support missionaries or special missions projects.  If every dollar is spent or already promised, there is not even a chance to meet unexpected needs of others or to be a blessing financially when opportunities arise.  No matter what the budget, all of us can live in a way that allows us to be givers.  I want to make sacrifices as needed so I am always in a position to give generously.

Live frugally - so you can give generously.  Wise words to keep pondering this week.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Inviting Ourselves In

The assisted living facility has a beautiful lobby and living room.  The gas fireplace is massive and is always on and is homey and inviting no matter the weather outside.  Every afternoon I arrive, there are always two or three residents gathered there.  Simply spending the hours before dinner is served.  Often someone has dozed off in an upright position.  I usually go by quietly so I don't disturb the napper.  But, what about the others who are awake? 

Yesterday, I stopped and started talking.  Apparently, it is much easier to begin an easy chat, or even a discussion, than it is to try and end it.  No one wants to be lonely.  No one wants to be alone....at least, not for too long.  We want to be included. We want to belong. But not everyone is able to connect - even with folks sitting close by.  Or has the courage to join the conversation or the group - even if invited.

Sometimes we have to invite ourselves into their world.  It might sound socially incorrect and may, initially, even feel awkward but there are so many around us who not only need us, but also want us, to engage them.  The new member at Bible study.  The visitors sitting by themselves before church begins.  Neighbors who just moved from across the country.  The senior waiting alone in the doctor's office.  The list is endless.

STOP.  We need eyes that looking for others.  Hearts that are sensitive to needs and a willingness to invite ourselves into their lives....for a just a few minutes, for a time or even for a friendship.

This week's prompt is INVITE.  You can find the others joining this week here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Three Words to Help with my To-Do List

Last week, I watched not one -  but two! -webinars!  For many (most) of you, that is not big news.  But for this technologically deficient lady...it was impressive.  To log on with over 4000 other viewers - from literally all over the world - and have someone share with me (from the comfort of their own couch) was, for me, totally cool!!:)  After I got over the awe of it all, there was so much good information!

Monday night's webinar was with Crystal Paine - she blogs at Money Saving Mom.  I took so much away from all she shared, including this quote "Live frugally in order to give generously."  Why didn't I come up with that!!?!  It not only inspired me but really expresses my heart.  However what I wanted to mention most today was a phrase she used for reaching your goals:  FOCUS AND FINISH.

I realize the phrase is not original and probably not new to many but I think those three words have rumbled through my thoughts at least ten times every single day since she shared them.  I don't consider myself overscheduled or even "too busy" - which I know makes me a bit of the odd one out - but I do have a "to-do" list (whether mental or written) and things I hope to accomplish each day and through the week.  Several of these things are specific tasks I believe the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart to be done.  However, even with enough time planned on my agenda, it is surprising, and often discouraging, just how much does not get finished and is carried over to the next (or the day after that!)

No doubt, simple procrastination can always be a problem.  But, often it is all the distractions.  The internet.  The cell phone.  Any and all types of media.  Interruptions.  The cell phone.  Oh, right.  Distractions are constant and endless.  If I am not careful, they will interrupt my devotions first thing in the morning and just follow me all day.  I tend to guard my quiet time carefully and set aside all possible distractions the best I can.  And I'm realizing I need more of this purposeful focused time throughout the day.

Set aside 30 minutes that will be focused and free of distractions and see a task finished.  I try to "schedule" as many of these focused blocks of time as the day will allow.  If a task takes more than 30 minutes, break it into smaller bites and finish one part each day.  Its only been a week since I started becoming aware how easily I lose my focus, and that I've been committing to "focus and finish" for blocks at a time - and things really are being finished.  Taming the distractions, staying focused in order to finish is another way to help me be a wise steward of the time I have each day.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Everyone Has a Story

I noticed him in the parking lot.  I had stopped for a quick errand on my to church and was in a bit of a hurry.  He had already found a full-size shopping cart and was pushing it across the parking lot.  He seemed to be in a hurry as well.  Perhaps, just very focused.  He was older, dishelved, and his too large sneakers made his gait a bit awkward.  Once we were in the store, we went opposite directions as I rushed to grab my two items.  But we ended up side by side at the check-out.  His full-size cart held a gallon of milk and five foot-long thin sticks of beef jerky.

I have to admit, my first thought was something along the lines of "a full-size cart from across the entire parking lot for that?!?"  Sad, I know. (My critical spirit never can seem to keep silent.)  But as the clerk bagged my things, I began to wonder if that was his dinner.  Was he going home to a meal of beef jerky sticks?  Maybe he had stopped for a gallon of milk and simply grabbed a few of his favorite snacks.  I have no idea.  He put his things back in the cart and left.  Was he using the large cart as a walking aid? Again, I don't know.  But that gallon milk and sticks of jerky nagged at me.  My heart wanted to know his story.

We all have a story.  The folks we notice at the grocery store.  And even the ones we don't.  Each senior now living at the assisted living center.  All the new ladies I'm meeting at Bible study each week.  My neighbors.  The servers at lunch and the obviously overtired hostess at dinner.  The young woman walking the neighborhood to endorse her political candidate that I am too quick to dismiss.

STOP...and my take away.  Everyone does have a story.  If we are going to live people-centered lives or we ever hope to connect with people, meet them where they are and have any hope of sharing Christ with them, we need to hear their stories.  Yes, it takes time and sometimes it takes sacrifice on our part but the reward is beautiful.  It also can be eternal.

This week's prompt for Five Minute Friday is (can you guess?) STORY.  You can find everyone's thoughts on STORY here. Funny how quickly five minutes speeds by when you are trying to tell a story!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In Their Easter Finest

With the best of intentions, I have tried posting every Tuesday and Friday.  And then I did not get a post up yesterday...which made the day feel just a bit off.  However, it was a full day - plenty of things on the "to do" list but, even more, just a day full of little surprises...and gifts from God.  Not a parting of the red sea type of day but an ordinary day with an extra amount of blessings and smiles from Heaven.  So, although I may be a tad off schedule, I do not want to miss the opportunity to praise my heavenly father....truly He is so good to me!

Among those smiles yesterday, a sweet friend sent me this picture she stumbled across....

That cute redhead - in his Easter cardigan (and blue shorts, with white socks to his knees), and his mouth full of cookie, I suppose....never fails to make my heart happy!!  I hope your day has had an extra smile, or two, from Heaven today!

Friday, September 29, 2017

September 2017 - By the Numbers

Another month finished - and, hopefully, finished well!  I thought it would be a good time to look back at the month....by the numbers again!  The pictures included have little (or nothing!) to do with the numbers but are just a few that were taken in September.

TWENTY FOUR - the number who attended our Sunday School class spaghetti dinner.  This was a first time for this activity - and apparently well-liked!!  Put that one down to do again!

THREE - the number of years it has been since I was able to attend Tuesday morning Bible study.  It was great to return and see several familiar faces.  I really enjoy small group Bible studies and being able to join this group again has already been a blessing

TWO - the number of setbacks.  Not once, but twice, our vacation plans were interrupted by hurricanes.  Obviously, in the scheme of things, an altered vacation is nothing.  So much devastation this month!  However, when the car refused to start on the morning before vacation attempt number three...we took it as "a sign" and just accepted no Hilton Head for us this year.  We did several other day trips instead and have loved it!

SIX - the number of figures (as in over a half a million) representing the faith promised pledged during this year's missions conference!  It is staggering (to me!), humbling and, yes, exciting to be part of something so incredible!  We had a wonderful conference and my heart is stirred - once again! - for missions, for missionaries (I love both....missions and missionaries!) and for the potential to reach so many with the gospel.  This year, I was dumbstruck by how many people and people groups around the world that are completely unreached with the gospel!!

NINETY-TWO - the number degrees in
the temperature - in the last week of September! - when we tried to go hiking!  In my opinion, hiking is no good (if not impossible) when it is 92 outside!  Why is it 92 in September??!

TWENTY-NINE - the number of candles on my beautiful daughter's birthday cake (er, cupcake!)..whether she owns up to them all or not!  If she thinks "pushing 30" is too much for her to handle - how old does it make me feel!!?!  As trite as it sounds, it truly seems like yesterday that she rushed into the world - catching us all by surprise and forever filling our hearts with love!

THIRTY-TWO - the number of years married to my sweetheart.  Thanking the Lord for another anniversary, a night away to celebrate and another year of memories.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Falling for the Trap

September is a full month at our house.  Virginia weather is gorgeous in September.  Festivals and fall fairs can fill in every blank on your calendar.  Our church missions conference - which is always a highlight - is every September.  We celebrate two birthdays and our anniversary.  With those celebrations, I have extra opportunities to reflect on family, God's goodness and on this life my husband and I enjoy.  September is a month to simply enjoy my blessings.

The month started off just that way - feeling blessed and loved. Then one random afternoon - I cannot even recall the details - we were headed out to wherever.   My husband did not open the door car for me. And I was just a bit more than miffed.  When it happened again, I was flat out annoyed.   I even felt insulted.  I'm pretty sure that I responded with a much larger than necessary huff and hard shut of the car door. 

Mind you - my husband has never been in the habit of opening the door for me.  More importantly, until one random day in September, I have never cared one iota about it.  Where had these emotions come from?  I think it had only been a few days before that I had witnessed a friend's husband open her door for her.  I noticed it and, evidently, it only took that one, innocent thought to nudge open the gate to the comparison trap.  I fell right in.

My husband and I are in a wonderful season of our lives - the one where we now can finish each other's sentences.  We have routines and habits that make life comfortable and secure.  We know who washes and who dries.  Who opens the blinds each morning and who starts the coffee.  We know who walks the (grand)dog when she is here and who fixes the "decorative" pillows every day after we make the bed.  And we have used the same routine for getting in and out of the car for decades.  I know all of this perfectly.   This post is not about whether or not a man should open the car door for me - or any other lady.  For some, that might be very important.  But for me, that was not the problem.  The problem was choosing one (for us, insignificant) thing and choosing to compare my husband to someone else.

I used to think the comparison trap was for much younger wives.  How quickly I learned the truth.  Satan is just that tricky and oh so subtle.  My heart - even as a middle-aged wife - must always be on guard.

As for the dog, the blinds, the coffee and the pillows - that is all him!  He even washes the dishes but we let them dry themselves.  I am, indeed, blessed and I'm choosing to make that my focus.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wanting to Number My Days and Hours

It's Friday!  Time for FMF...that time to write for five minutes - (largely) unedited and (for the most part) unrehearsed.  If you haven't yet, you really should check many of the other links here - it really is interesting to see how one word can evoke many different thoughts.  And many similar ones, too!

This week's prompt:  ACCEPT

GO:  After I quit working - or at least working at a job with a paycheck:) - I found myself in somewhat of a new season in my life.  Suddenly, I was a SAHM...but not really "M" as that acronym implies.  My children are adults.  So, I am a Stay At Home...what?  I've thought much about a correct title but defining this time of my life has been tricky - even trickier than finding initials to identify it.

For sure, I have more time.  And, for sure, I want to be busy.  I have the time to accept all types of invitations and to say yes to lots of opportunities.  However, I don't want to simply be busy, I want to be productive and, more importantly, I need to be a wise steward of my time.


God has not allowed me extra hours in my day to simply occupy - or preoccupy myself.  Even in this phase of life, I need to seek His guidance and accept only those offers to be engaged or to get involved or make those choices "to do" that would be a wise use of my time and would be pleasing to Him.  I want to accept - or decline - invitations and opportunities that help me "number my days" - use my days - wisely.

Psalm 90:12  So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Thought Exactly

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Birthdays Can Be Hard

Birthdays are kind of a big deal.  Not everyone celebrates them the same way.  No doubt, not everyone feels the same about marking another year.  But, at our house, birthdays are cause for celebrating.  To show our love and acknowledge the gift that each person is to the little group that we call family!  Like most families, we have our little traditions for making birthdays more than "just another day" for whoever is celebrating.  We look forward to birthdays.

But some birthdays are hard.  Tomorrow will be our Tyler's birthday.  He would be 25.  Twenty-five.  How can that be?  It has taken several birthdays to find what felt comfortable or seemed "right" to acknowledge the special day when God gave us Tyler.  We could never just let the day slip by but celebrating was hard, in different ways, for all of us.  But as with all things that have challenged our hearts through grief, God has been faithful.  We have learned to laugh again.  We have found joy in the every day things and reason to celebrate the special days as well.  God has caused my heart to sing again.  Just yesterday morning during my quiet time, He reminded me of just that.

Psalm 126: 2  "Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing:  then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them."

He has done great things.  He will continue to do great things.  Tomorrow I will have reason to rejoice....as I remember Tyler and the day I became his mom!!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Remember. Be Grateful. 2017 Anniversary

Since I returned to blogging, I have tried to post regularly - for me and for now, that is every Tuesday and Friday.  Yesterday, I missed my post which was totally not my plan.  I knew I would be out of town but thought I would get the post up regardless.  Didn't happen.  But I want to get these photos posted today because I want to intentionally not only remember the nice time that we had celebrating our anniversary but also just to be grateful for: my faithful husband, the life that God has given us, a time to get away just to sweethearts again...and to remember how very blessed we are!

We went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  It's not too far from where we live - but it feels like a world away!  Something about the whole area just makes my soul smile and my spirit soar!

Acres of dark green farmland as far as the eye can see...

Rows and rows of cornfields gleaning in the sunlight....

True farm to table meals and homemade pastries - that seem to be everywhere....

Small stands of pumpkins for sale at the end of driveways....and

Life moving at just a pace that seems more natural for a body. I love this part of our country.  And I think the horse hoofs against the pavement even before the sun is completely in the sky is probably my absolute favorite!

We stayed in a room just above this quilt shop!

I love everything about this picture.  Everything fall!  The piano on the porch where anyone is welcome to play for awhile.  All the treasures that were inside.  And the rockers outside to rest when you're done shopping.

I've heard that the soil in Lancaster County is the optimum, perfect soil for growing.  I don't know if that is true or not but I do know that beautiful, huge, colorful flowers are literally everywhere!  I think I could even create a flowerbed (my dad would be proud of) if I lived here!

Just so pretty!!

Those two chairs, parked at the edge of the cornfield, looking out over the view (above) - that is a perfect day away for the two of us!  Thanking the Lord for all His goodness!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A New Opportunity and A New Course

When you begin blogging, it is very much a step of faith.  You really have no idea exactly what God wants to do with all those blog posts but you want to be obedient - and so you write.  Well, at least, that is my story.  And, as a very new blogger, I'm sure I still do not know even the beginning of where this blog could lead.  However, I have already been blessed.  In many ways.  Discovering new community, meeting other bloggers and reader comments are all encouraging.

I so enjoy Five Minute Friday.  Kate is the host of Five Minute Friday and recently I had the opportunity to beta-test her new e-course - the Start-up Guide for Online Writers.  I have never done anything quite like this.  Not only am I a newbie blogger but I have not done an online course before, (yes, I am that old!) so I did not really know what to expect.  However, the course was great.

I will admit, there were times when I began to feel overwhelmed.  No fault of the material - just my naivety mixing with my insecurities and realizing there is so much that can potentially be done when writing online.  But whether you are a beginner like me, a blogger that is ready to go to the next level or even a more experienced writer - this course is, for sure, beneficial for everyone.  It is chock full of resources!  So many ideas, how-tos, and links to help you reach whatever goals you might have for writing online.

The course is available beginning today.  It is only $19.99 through the 19th.  You can check it out here.  I'm not being paid for my review.  I just offered to give my honest feedback - and I thought the course was super helpful.

A few more recent blessings -

    *  I have an anniversary this week!  I am so grateful to share life with my husband!

    *  Sleeping with the windows open kind of weather!

    *  Although a stressful week for one family member...I can see God obviously working.

    *  Vacation plans were postponed because of the storm, but we still are able to go away this weekend to celebrate our anniversary.  God's timing is perfect!

Friday, September 8, 2017

How Do You View Your Work?

It is time for Five Minute Friday again.  I have started really looking forward to these prompts and then visiting the others in the link-up.  It is so interesting to see how one simple word can lead to so many different ideas - all so insightful and thought-provoking for me.  You can find the other great thoughts here.  Writing for five minutes today on WORK.

GO.  Spending a couple afternoons each week with my senior friends has been such a blessing in many ways.  These folks teach me something new every week.  We play games and other activities, but I really just love to visit.  Talks are unhurried and full of reflection.  I have come to realize that no matter their background, all of them can identify and, for the large part, remember three things: relationships, where they have lived and what they did - their work.  These three things form the foundation of who they are.

Talk about relationships - their spouse, grandchildren, great-children:) and they can talk forever. They love the question, "where are you from?"  This might take them back to the place they were born, where they served in the military or the last home they had before moving to this new place. Wherever it takes them, they love the memories.  And, of course, you can inquire about their work. Firefighter. Nurse. Mechanic. College professor.  Ballroom dance instructor.  I've met them all (and more) and, no matter how long they have since retired, each one considers these jobs a cornerstone of their identity.

STOP.  Five minutes passed already?!

A lesson for me - if the work we do is paramount to who we are, how important is it that we do our work well?  Whether you consider it a job, a service, a ministry or a calling....we must be diligent, work to reflect our testimony, and work in a way that brings glory to our savior.  So much more could be said but the point of Five Minute Friday is writing for five minutes.  But certainly something to ponder....not do I love my job, need a different job or similar thoughts - but... the work that I have been given today, do I do it will all my might?

Ecclesiastes 9:10a  "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;"

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Four Thoughts for Loving Your Neighbor

Photo - Charlie Riedel - AP

As I scrolled through some photos of Houston in recent days, I could not look for long because the photos are just heart-wrenching and overwhelming.  Yes, the devastation is immense but the photos that really take all my emotions are those of people helping people.  People helping strangers.  People putting their own agenda on hold simply to help meet the need of someone else -  no doubt, without expecting anything in return.  I'm sure not every one of those helping so sacrificially is a Christian, but whether they know or not, they are a vivid picture of the Bible's command to love our neighbor.

I'm sure I am like most when I say I wish there was more that I could do.  I can give.  I can certainly pray.  But I will most likely never be in Houston.  Never be able to open my home, make or deliver a meal, offer my help in cleaning out someone's home, or comfort a child.  I cannot be a neighbor in Houston.  But I do have neighbor's right here on my own street.

When the opportunity to reach out is not so obvious or urgent, loving our neighbor can easily get pushed down on our priority list and can sometimes even be difficult.  Some simply do not appreciate our attempts to love them.  Others would love to have the friendship of a neighbor but, for a variety of reasons, can't seem to make the connection themselves.  They are just waiting. Today, I thought I would list just a few ways to start thinking about loving our neighbors.  These ideas are just wheel-turners.  I would love to hear your ideas and practical applications for being a neighbor that loves as Jesus would.

One: gifts.  This one seems the most obvious but is certainly not as commonplace as it was just a generation ago.  A warm loaf of banana bread.  A jar of homemade applesauce.  Cookies or a yummy pumpkin roll around the holidays.  Any of these are not only easy to make but would be a welcome gift when the neighbor hears the doorbell.  Gifts around special days are easy to deliver but don't overlook "just because" gifts on a random Tuesday:)  These really express that you care about your neighbor.

Two:  children.  People love their children - even the most private neighbors.  Some neighbors will take you up on the offer to watch the kids for an afternoon, but not all.  But showing an interest in someone's children and what they enjoy - the start of school, the big soccer tournament, football tryouts, all that lovely violin practicing - is a chance to connect with those around you...even if you do not still have children at home.  Attending a neighborhood high school football game can be a lot of fun - whether you have a child on the field or not.  And be patient with others' children.  They can play loud, cut through your yard or leave their bikes in your path, but if you are constantly aggravated or criticizing their children, don't expect the neighbor to welcome you (with or without banana bread) with open arms.

Three:  show interest.  Often we think there is nothing in common, other than a street address, between us and our neighbor, and that may be true.  But, look for what interests your neighbor and then show your own interest.  Our neighbor has the nicest yard and flower beds on the whole street. They enjoy working in the yard - and they do it well.  I know who to ask about fertilizer, annuals that like shade or even the color for repainting the mailbox.  These all open discussion.  Does your neighbor love to golf...have three border collies....or collect old cars (or car parts?!?)  It might mean nothing to you but these interests can be a way to easily approach and connect with your neighbor - even when you have absolutely nothing in common.

Four: be available.  With busy lives and the feeling of pressure to stay on schedule, often we simply miss opportunities to not only be a neighbor but to simply connect with our neighbor.  All of the interaction we have with our neighbors is outside.  Often on our front porch.  We sit on our porch almost every evening.  We try to have a presence with those on our street.  If the neighbors do come over, we cannot be itching and eager to get back to our schedule. We need to have time.  This isn't always practical but if we are never "out there" - those visits will never happen.  For us and our neighborhood, the front porch has been one of the easiest, non-threatening - and enjoyable! - ways to connect with our neighbors.  And, hopefully, as we create relationships, we also create a chance to show Jesus with those on our street.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Love Thy Neighbor

It's time for Five Minute Friday (writing freely and unedited for five minutes.....which is still a struggle) - but I have to admit when I saw today's prompt, my first thought was this is the perfect week to pass.  Sigh.  But, in an attempt to be honest and perhaps more transparent than I tend to be, I am joining the great group of writers of FMF.  Check them all out here.  Today's prompt: neighbor.

Galatians 5:14  "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

GO  At least weekly - almost daily - I am reminded (by the soft nudge of the Holy Spirit) that I am to love my neighbor.  It is not that I dislike neighbor but I am to do more than just be neighborly...with a wave from the car as I retreat into the garage or a quick hello if we happen to retrieve the mail at the same time.  Loving my neighbor is even more than occasionally watering the plants when they are on vacation.  God wants me to sacrifice myself...to put myself out...to really invite my neighbor into my world.  But it's hard.  Every effort is resisted and, if I am honest, another attempt just does not seem worth it.  But there is that persistent nudging.

I am not told to love my neighbor....unless it is too hard.  In fact, none of God's commands (give sacrificially, evangelize the world, offer forgiveness....) come with an exception clause - for when it's just too hard.  Loving my neighbor is no different.


Hopefully, putting these thoughts into a post will make for some accountability.  On Tuesday I will share some ways to try and reach your neighbors - because it is impossible to share the love of Christ with them until we first show our love for them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Look Back at August: Little Letters

Hard to believe, but this is my last post in August!  Another month - finished.
Just like that, summer is almost gone.  I thought I would look back at the events and blessings of this month in a new (to me) and kinda fun way....with "little letters"!

Dear kitchen cabinets.  You just make me smile with your fresh coat of paint and totally new look.  I knew I would love the change and always imagined what painted cabinets would do for the kitchen, but really never thought it would be in the budget or would actually happen.  But, there you are every morning - in all your creamy (off white-ish) prettiness - just making me smile!  Welcome to our kitchen and I hope you are here for many years to come!

Dear TJ.  Thanks for making the cabinets so pretty!  It was a long six days - at least, they seemed long to me - but you did a great job!!

Dear brother of mine.  So glad we were able to help celebrate your birthday.  Dinner was great and you were so happy (life is treating you well!) and any evening spending time with you is a blessing. Being your sister is a blessing!  Praying the next year ahead is full of special days for you.

Dear Carrabbas. You rarely disappoint and our visit this month was no exception.  You were the
perfect place to visit with our South Dakota buddies - we are always happy for the chance to see them again! - and your server worked hard to handle our large group!  Thanks a bunch!

Dear Sam.  Kudos for handling that cross country trip (South Dakota to South Carolina!) like a champ!  Praying your freshman year is a great one.  Don't forget....phone home.  Text.  Skype. Whatever...but your mom wants to hear from you.  Just sayin.

Dear August humidity.  You just about ruined my attitude this month.  I love summer.  Love it.  And it was going great until two weeks into August and you were relentless.  Thank you for making your worst days short-lived - but you were intense.

Dear fall-like weather.  Welcome!  Please stay.

Dear Tribute residents.  What fun you are - and how blessed I am to join you each week.  As a new volunteer, I am just getting to know each of you but, already, I have had a great time: many of laughs, good conversations, fun outings and too much food!  Thanks for welcoming me into your home and into your activities.  I already look forward to visiting each week.

Dear Courtney.  Thanks for a second great haircut.  Two in a row - this is something rare for me. Dare I hope that I have actually found a stylist that I can depend on and I will visit for more than four cuts??  How exciting.  The fact that I didn't cut my own hair in between visits says much - and is my highest compliment.

Dear church family.  This has been a history-making month for our church....in a good way. We all know change can be tricky - if not hard.  But God is really working and blessing.  I hope we will be excited for our preacher, as he retires, and that we will encourage and support our new pastor in every way that we can.

Dear September.  Come on in - and welcome!  I am looking forward to you and all the fun things I have planned while you are here...birthdays, our anniversary, a wedding, vacation - just to get me excited. Yes, I will miss summer but I'm ready for you September.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Guide

Five Minute Friday - a sweet community of writers that take a prompt and write (largely) unedited for five minutes.  To learn more about it or to find the other writers, go here.  Whether you are a writer or simply want to ponder...the prompt this week is GUIDE.


My visits to a local assisted-living home are the highlight of my week.  I love the sense of community, the activities we share and I love the seniors who live there.  I especially enjoy the pace of life there - not only the pace at which we enjoy each other's company but at which we do just about everything.  Slow and steady.  As we move from one spot to another, I fall into step beside a resident. We talk easily as I help her navigate the hallways - watching for anything that might trip her walker and ensuring she finds the right path to her destination.  These walks bring me joy.  For a senior friend, they are reassuring, a help and, I think, a joy as well.  (There are certainly plenty of smiles!)

Wouldn't we all benefit from such a guide?  Someone that will come alongside us - to share the journey.  To keep us on the right path and headed in the right direction.  Someone watching for anything that might trip us or cause us to fall.  Someone who wants to help guide us through life, not for any gain or reward of their own, but simply because they care.  Surely, we would.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Trouble with Over-scheduling

All of the schools in my area have either already returned to classes or they begin next week. It is officially "back to school" time and, in a sense, the end of summer.  The temperatures are still very much summer but the relaxed schedules and carefree (dare I say, lazy) days of summer are gone for another year.  And it really seems that everyone is already full-speed ahead into the hyper-scheduled, full day of commitments, feeling the stress mode that back to school seems to bring - even those who no longer have kids in school!

I am a schedule kind of a girl.  I thrive on an organized routine.  However, I think there is a nugget of wisdom in holding onto a bit of the carefree summer mindset.  Too often, we hold up our over-stuffed, color coordinated planners - with every line, every hour carefully accounted for - as badges of honor as if crazy schedules will prove we are good mothers, efficient wives and/or super productive women.  In reality, the bulging planners just show we are busy.

And there is much to be missed when we are over-scheduled.  The unplanned fun of playing with our children.  The impromptu coffee break with a girlfriend.  Simply soaking in creation on an extra long walk with the dog. Finding yourself completely absorbed in your devotional time that a whole hour slips away before you even realize it.  Learning about a need - a neighbor needs a babysitter or a coworker needs a meal - and having the time to not only meet the need but not feel stressed while doing it.

We so often allow ourselves the time to do these things during summer - and even look forward to them.  But once back to school season begins, there is a shift in our thinking that affects our time and, very often, robs us of blessings. And that's a shame. I'm certainly not tossing my schedule out the window - but I do want to keep it fluid and do my planning with more of the carefree attitude of summer.

Friday, August 18, 2017

...And Five Things I'm Not!

After listing five things that I consider myself pretty good at....it is only fair to document some of those things that - well, I just don't do well.  The things that keep me banging my head against the wall.  And that keep me humble.  I'll start with the proverbial elephant in the room.

ONE - losing weight.  I really hate to even bring it up but it isn't for lack of knowledge, motivation or even 100 new month/fresh Monday beginnings.   But I haven't lost a pound in years.  Let's just chalk it up to something I'm not good at doing.  I'm sure there are a two, three, or ten other (true) excuses but this just sounds better.  Moving on.

TWO - exercise.  See number one.  I'm not athletic and I pretty much hate to sweat - both of which make exercising loathsome.  I totally admit moving, stretching and burning calories is not only necessary but is also even good for me.  And, much like losing weight, I do make numerous attempts at starting.  It is the sticking with it, pushing through and disregarding the sweat (uhg!) that derails me. Every time.

THREE - ironing.  I made reference to this in the previous post when I said I would rather sort, file and organize rather than iron.  Actually, I can find absolutely anything, on any given day, to do in order to put off ironing. Absolutely the worst chore.  Ever.  My attitude, no doubt, completely affects my efforts...and explains my husband's wrinkled shirts!

I have to admit...the more I type this post, the more I'm shaking my head. Why did I think this was a good idea??  Just two more - 

FOUR - any type of poker face.  I can usually bite my tongue and, with the Holy Spirit's help, I try hard to remember that my opinion does not always need to be shared.  The problem is - even with my mouth closed, my face (and body language) usually give me away. This is something I need to work much harder on - not the poker face but the bad attitude behind it.  Simply holding in words is not really the answer.

FIVE - memorization.  I have a real desire to hide God's word in my heart...to have verses saturating my thoughts, to be able to meditate on them and, as well, to easily recall them when situations and circumstances depend on it.  Not only is allowing His word to permeate my thoughts a blessing and a joy, it is vital.  Memorizing scripture does not come easy but I do not want that to ever become a reason to stop.  Actually, I do not ever want the challenge of something to be used as an excuse. Whether it be dieting, exercising, memorizing, stepping out of my comfort zone, following God's path or any number of things...I want to persevere, keeping trying and begin again wherever I may have failed or quit.

So, no doubt about it, there is plenty that I am not good at doing.  Perhaps it is a good exercise to examine those, and then continue working to do them better.  If you have a thought, a method or tool that helps you with verse memorization, please share it.  I am always looking for new ideas!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five Things I'm Good At......

Some things I do better than others.  It's usually much easier for me to notice and, sometimes, to obsess about the things I need to improve.  So, just for the simple fun of it, I thought I would put into words five things that I do well.  Just in case.....

ONE - making my bed.  Well, maybe not just the art of making my bed (although it does look nice) but more the habit of making my bed.  In truth, I would like to make the bed as soon as I'm out of it and upright but I'm afraid that would make me seem obsessive.  But within thirty minutes, I have the bed made.  The day just goes better if you start the day right and a day does not start right until the bed is made.  I know those who would turn around and head twelve miles back home if they forgot their watch, or earrings, or (heaven help) their phone!!  Me?  Would totally turn around if I forgot to make the bed.  But that would never happen.

TWO - organizing.  It really does not matter if it is kitchen cabinets, closets, junk drawers, spices, office files, old photos or the recycling...I can organize it to a thing of beauty!  Ok, maybe not the recycling.  Not only does the finished product make me happy but the entire process just makes my heart sing.  A friend once told me that ironing did the same thing for her.   (I don't even know what to say.) Give me a pile of tax receipts to organize and file any day!

THREE - throwing things away.  This is tied closely to number two.  It is so much easier to organize anything if all the extraneous is thrown away - and I don't have a problem letting go of anything. Admittedly, this has gotten me into trouble once, or maybe twice but, when it doubt, I'd much rather take the risk and throw it away.  I think this one is a genetic thing I get from my mother.  I learned very early if you left it lying around, it would most likely be thrown away.  School research papers included.  At least I can say, I never did that!

FOUR - planning.  Maybe this is really more organizing but I love event planning.  I love creating the idea, the thinking through of the details, making phone calls and coordinating all the pieces that come together to make the event happen.  Except for weddings.  Wedding planning is a thing all of itself - and just not my thing.  I think being an event planner would be a dream job.  Then again, if it were "a job" it might not be as much fun!

FIVE - driving.  I know just about everyone thinks they are a good driver.  At least, everyone I've ever asked.  But let me just say - not everyone is a good driver!  (In fact, most of the people I see driving desperately need more driver's ed.)  But, I really am a good driver. There isn't a way to measure that or for me to prove it, but you can take my word:  I am a (pretty good) driver!  Sadly, I do not enjoy driving.  I really don't enjoy being in the passenger seat either. Makes for super long car trips!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Preparing My Place

I'm joining the Five Minute Friday fun again this week.  The writing for (only) five minutes has definitely been challenging.  The writing freestyle and without overthinking - even a bit more challenging  The un-editing part - just about impossible!  But, nevertheless, here it goes.  This week's prompt:  PLACE

GO... "In my Father's house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."  John 14:2-3

The Lord once told Joshua that "every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you,"  (Joshua 1:3)  That was a powerful promise for Joshua.  God did not promise that the days and events ahead would all be easy, and the land would be given without work, challenge and in their own strength.  In fact, He repeatedly told Joshua to be of good courage.  God knew what was ahead - but He promised Joshua the victory and He promised to be with Him in the process.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Three Lessons (I'm Still Learning) From Grief

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"  I Peter 1:7

I claimed this verse during the very early months of my grief and it has very often given me a small, but needed, answer to the why's my heart cried.  Even if I truly never understood all the why's, my mind could hold onto a sense of purpose.  And, if Christ is to be honored and glorified, there are lessons to continually be learned, no matter how many years I have been living with grief.  Most of the lessons mentioned here, I have learned at least once, if not several times, over the last eleven years but I found myself learning them again the last week or two - so, I thought they should be shared.

ONE - There is no rule book for grieving.  How many times have I wished for a rule book?  Not only am I rule-follower but I am a rule-loving girl.  Rules give me order.  They establish boundaries, balance and a sense of stability.  If I follow the rules, my boat stays upright and can weather even the strongest storms.  When grief completely overturned the boat that was my life, I was desperate for any type of stability. I was desperate for anyone who could just tell me the "ten steps to surviving grief."

There was no rule book in those early days and there are no rules for handling grief or honoring a loved one years later.  What was helpful and brought healing several years ago might not feel the same, or even be necessary, later.  And that is okay.  The first couple years after Tyler died, we would go off for the day.  Take a day trip.  Mindlessly wander a small town and look through shops.  The mindless part was good.  It kept us just occupied enough but didn't take thought.  For two or three years in a row, we came across an unexpected treasure which seemed to help mark the years.  In my mind, I made it a rule.  Each August 1st, we will take a day trip.  But the time came when it felt forced and more of a chore than any type of help.  So we stopped - and that's okay because there really are no rules.

TWO - Everyone grieves differently.  (Perhaps because there are no rules.)  This one was hard to learn in the beginning. Husbands, women, mothers, siblings, teenagers, grandparents, friends, etc. Everyone processes grief differently.  Everyone expresses grief differently.  And, after eleven years, each member of our family has a unique way to remember Tyler and to honor his memory.  That can still be challenging.  One of the hardest things about (self-imposed) rules is wanting to impose them on everyone around you.  Not only does it not work, but it is also just unfair.

THREE - I cannot depend on others, or circumstances, to comfort me or ease my grief. Again, it is unfair for me to expect family, friends or anyone else to know exactly what my heart needs.   Every year, God has used someone, or several someones, to say or do just what my heart needed to be reminded and to know how much He truly cares.  But God does that. I cannot try to make that happen.  If I will allow Him to work, and speak, and care so tenderly for me, I will never be disappointed.  Sadly, I have forgotten that truth more than once over the years.  But, He reminded me again this year.  What special surprises that only He could arrange were gifts this year.  What a faithful, loving and personal God we have!! May He continue to get the praise, and honor and glory!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eleven Years

Eleven years ago today.  Sometimes all that eleven years can entail is too much for my brain to process.  It can seem like a lifetime and then, other times, it feels as fresh as if it were yesterday.  But, every day, for eleven years - on the good days, the bad days and all the days in between, God has been faithful.  He has upheld me and strengthened me.  He has encouraged and wiped away tears.  He has, indeed, given beauty where I could only see ashes.  He is good!

I received a note this week from one of Tyler's childhood friends.  What a blessing just for her to acknowledge "I'm thinking of Tyler, too!"  She included this poem that she wrote several years ago.  I will let it speak for me today.  Thank you, Kimberly.

Ty, my special angel friend
I miss your curly red hair,
the smile and awkward nods,
the laughs and fake guitar.
Never to joy in throwing your cap
or walking down an aisle.
The things we value on earth 
were you robbed,
but you got the joys of Heaven.
What are earthly things
compared to that glorious place
Why should I selfishly wish you back?