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 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 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 put myself 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.