Friday, January 19, 2018

The Danger of My Comfort Zone

I like cozy.  I like comfortable.  I have to admit...I like my comfort zone.  Comfort zone: a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.  Even the definition sounds nice.  At ease, without stress.  Isn't that often our goal?  Not only to create a comfort zone but to stay close to it.  The busier our lives become and, ahem, the older we become, our comfort zone (whether loosely or clearly defined) becomes even more important.  If you are like me, a comfort zone is framed by routine and familiarity keeps in defined.

And while there is certainly nothing wrong with routine or even activities and relationships that allow us to "feel safe and at ease," our comfort zones can easily become stagnant and can cause us to become complacent, or satisfied with the status quo.  This cannot be the goal for a Christian.  God's word is often encouraging each of us - exhorting us - to move forward.  To consistently be making spiritual progress.

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
I Thessalonians 4:1

If we are to abound more and grow spiritually and, ultimately, to become more like our Heavenly father....we have to live intentionally.  Making purposeful choices - choosing what is best and denying ourselves whatever might be keeping us too settled in our comfort zone.  Being intentional is key to abounding more and more.

Its Five Minute Friday and, yes, the prompt is intentional.  As most often is the case, five minutes are up.  However, knowing I want my life to be abounding - to be moving forward - in the Lord, and for the Lord, begs the question of how?  What intentional choices can I make to help me do just that?  I plan to look at that question, and some answers, more in my Tuesday post.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tortilla Soup, Actually

This blog is in no way a food blog.  It really is not even a good place to look for recipes.  I know my strengths - and my weaknesses and I am not a great cook.  However, I can follow directions and easy to follow recipes are my friend.  So is Pinterest.  I love to look through recipes (a genetic thing from my mom, I believe) and I enjoy trying new ones...and so, I pin.  And pin a lot.  There are so many pins, and so many different boards on my Pinterest, it is beginning to feel like clutter - and clutter drains all my joy.  I am trying to actually make the recipes that I have "neatly" filed away on my boards - and then keep the winners and, well, delete the losers.  But organizing my virtual file cabinet is another post altogether.  This post is for sharing a delicious recipe I have made repeatedly in just the last few weeks. 

Yesterday, we had a Sunday school class fellowship - a soup and subs type of afternoon.  Perfect for a winter day.  And, I brought this soup. (I'm pretty sure I referred to this as Enchilada Soup all afternoon - but it is technically called Tortilla Soup.  Potatoe. Potato.  Let's just call it yummy!)   I tend to think that the longer an ingredient list, the tastier a recipe will be, but this soup has a rather short ingredient list (yeah!) but it is very tasty.  The directions also include steps to make this a freezer meal.  This soup would be perfect to have on hand for snow days (we might just have one tomorrow!) or whenever you might need to take a meal.

The website link is here.  You can also find it on my Pinterest boards - both Soup's On and, the brand-new and waiting to be filled board, Recipes: Tested, Tried and Tasty!!  My Pinterest is linked on the sidebar.  There are plenty of soups just waiting to be tried and tasted.  I think there might be plenty of winter days, as well, ahead in order to try them all!  Sigh.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Two Ways to Better Enjoy Today

It's Friday.  I love Kate's description of Five Minute Friday....

We take a deep breath and bravely post our five-minute scribblings for others to read.
It’s really not about the quality — it’s about showing up. It’s about sitting down, setting the timer, and doing the work. It’s about the discipline and the practice of letting the words flow. It’s about releasing fears and embracing imperfection. And we do it together.
For me, it is definitely about embracing imperfection and simply doing the writing.  I am an over-thinker.  I over analyze and over-critique.  It's actually one reason I am late "showing up" this week.  After I read the prompt - SIMPLIFY - there were so many ways I wanted to apply this to my life and ways to approach this post.  I was completely over-thinking it.  Totally counter-productive to Five Minute Friday.  So,without further ado...some of my rambling thoughts on SIMPLIFY.
GO - To simplify is to clarify.  To make plain or easy to understand. And, for me, easier to appreciate.  In order to best appreciate and enjoy this life I have been blessed with is to keep it uncomplicated.  Often it is my own thoughts, and thought processes, that way over complicate life for me.  That snare of over-thinking and, especially, over-critiquing traps me way more often than I care to admit.
One way to avoid this is "to live in the moment" - which is not to be confused with "live for the moment" or an "eat, drink and live for today" mentality that I think is contrary to Bible teaching.  To live in the moment, I believe, requires two things.  Forgetting the past and refusing to constantly look toward and wait for the future.
The days gone past have their share of regret, disappointments (even shame) but, as well, hard to forget victories, hopes fulfilled and a multitude of sweet moments.  If I use the past as a lens to view today's choices and activities, I not only miss opportunities but, undoubtedly, miss many of the joys that could be mine right now.  Simplifying, for me, includes letting go of the past.  Yes, I enjoy the memories but I am not living in the memory but living today in order to create even more memories.
On the other side, comparing today's moments with my perception of tomorrow can also rob me of today's blessings.  It may be something as simple as the weather.  The temperatures today were unseasonably warm and extra delightful after our bitter cold snap.  I heard a statement similar to "it is so beautiful today....what a bummer that it is going to be lousy again tomorrow!" more than a few times today.  I may have even thought it myself:(  Why not simply enjoy today?!  
Similarly, I often fail to enjoy the beauty of the day, the time, the phase I am currently living because I am convinced tomorrow will be the better time to pursue a dream, make a bold choice or any number of things.  I am way too guilty of this.  Simplifying - or removing all the extra that over-complicates and squeezes out the joy - also includes a proper focus on tomorrow.  I want to savor all that today offers.
STOP - I must say that this post was not written in just five minutes.  I was just beginning to write when my husband invited me to enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch.  Something we usually do in the warmer months.  What a treat!  Pausing to stop and enjoy a simple pleasure of today was the perfect "note to self" for living in the moment!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

More Thoughts on Choosing

Last week, I wrote about my verse for this new year.  Joshua 24:15 - which I claimed after trying to settle on a word for the year.  Choose.  Aren't "words for the year" supposed to be a noun?  Choice.  But the simple word, choice, didn't seem to really convey what God was impressing on my heart.  The idea that so much of life - most of life - is truly a choice.  And so, I went with a verse.

Yes, there are situations, circumstances and some things that I have no control over...but even in those times, there are choices I can make.  Very often, my testimony, my influence on others... my walk with the Lord and my spiritual growth are a direct result of those choices.  I want to make the best choices - and so I will "choose this day whom I will serve."

Once I month, I plan to highlight some of the choices that are mine and how I am making them.  So many choices but I will look, at least, at twelve.  Choices I am specifically focusing on - and that might need some fine-tuning - or fixing - in my life.  I hope they will be an encouragement.

The idea of making a choice is not the only pertinent part of this verse for me in 2018.  "Choose you this day..."  This day.  Right now.  It is in this phase of life that I need to make the best choices.  For me, that looks like an empty-nest, semi-retired, middle-age phase of life.  My nest is not completely empty but my children are grown adults and self-sufficient.  My mom-life phase is complete.  I stopped earning a paycheck last year but am certainly not ready to stop working.  However, I am definitely not as young as I used to be:)  However I would describe these days, I want to use them wisely and use them well.  That requires the best choices.

I am also a grieving mother.  I never imagined it would be down paths of deepest grief I would travel before I would get to this phase of life.Yes, God has done much healing in my heart but the death of a child forever marks your life.  I believe He has taken the ashes of my life - what I once saw as hopeless and completely not worth the living - and helped me see something beautiful.  A life with purpose and promise and full of beautiful moments.  Hence, the name of this blog.  I do not want to use my grief as an excuse for poor choices nor do I want all God has taught me and carried me through to be in vain.  I want others to be encouraged and, if necessary, to find the courage to trade their ashes for the beauty He offers.

All of us are in different phases.  Not all of us - but I believe most of us - have our own share of ashes.  Broken hearts.  Failed plans.  Ruined dreams.  You, too, might be grieving or your unexpected path might be totally different.  A broken trust or unwanted divorce.  A wayward child or other heart-wrenching relationship.  A financial crisis. A medical diagnosis that forever changes your life.  It might be all completely new or you may be settled into your new normal...but, all along the way, there are choices to make.  My prayer is this blog can help all women make those choices which draw them closer to the One who is faithful and whose promises never fail.

Isaiah 61:3  "to give unto them beauty for ashes...."

Friday, January 5, 2018

Motivate By Example

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:  Hebrews 10:24

To provoke is to excite or encourage.  You might say, to motivate.  We are called to motivate one another.  I think we all want to be an encourager, myself included.  But to do so - and to do so even better in the year ahead - we have to encourage on purpose.  I would like to purposefully motivate those around me to be not only their best but also to do their best for the glory of the Lord and in His service.  This includes my family and those closest to me.  Those I serve with in ministry.  My friends.  Those I love but live miles from me.  Even those who visit my blog.

How can I be an encourager? A motivator?  How can each of us provoke, excite and motivate those around us?  One of the best ways is by example. 

When my children were little people and I wanted to instill a good habit - anything from brushing their teeth to saying the blessing or respecting their dad - the easiest, and most effective, way to do that was to do so myself.  Similarly, I have several friends with a "no shoes in the house" policy.  We, on the other hand, wear our shoes at home.  However, when visiting a friend, I know when I should remove my shoes....because my friend removes her shoes.

If I want to motivate, encourage - to provoke - others to love and to good works.....I need to be doing just that myself.

STOP.  Today's post is the first Five Minute Friday for 2018 and today's prompt is MOTIVATE.  Writing for five minutes - unrehearsed and, for the most part, unedited.   I often have a hard time staying within five minutes but, as a good rule-follower, I do indicate when the time is finished.  I made the time today but my thoughts seem so scattered.  These posts are always a good challenge.  I want to be an encourager and God has used today's word to prompt some self-examination.  Certainly, there is work to be done in the months ahead.

 The rest of this week's posts from the word motivate can be found here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Not a Word - but a Verse for the Year

Happy New Year - and hello to a new year.  Another new beginning.  A fresh start.  I love the energy and fresh vigor that comes with a new beginning...whether it is a new week, a new month and especially when it is a new year.  This year even began on a Monday - win-win!  During the week between Christmas and yesterday, there was plenty of time to reflect on the past year and to prepare and purpose for this new year ahead.  Whether or not you write out specific resolutions, goals are good.  Goals, at the very least, point us in the right directions.  Continuing in the right direction and, certainly, reaching our goals will be determined, in large part, by the choices we make.

We make choices all day. Every day.  Choices of no real eternal value and others that have great impact.  Some choices affect no one but ourselves.  Others have far-reaching ripple effects. Very often, the bigger, high-impact choices are the result of lots of smaller choices beforehand.  Choices matter.  I want 2017 to be a year of good choices.  And not just good choices but wise choices.  Choices that honor Christ.  Choices that not only draw me closer to Him but also point others toward Him.

Obviously, I have no idea all the choices that 2018 will include.  But starting today - er, yesterday - I can begin with the small choices. For instance, I can begin each day with the right choice.  To start each day with the God's word and in prayer will only happen if I choose to get up when necessary, adequately schedule my morning and stop accepting excuses.  Doing so repeatedly, this choice soon becomes a habit - even a priority.  The same principle applies to more than habits.  Emotions. Recovery.  Reactions or responses.  Relationships.  Our health.  And the list goes on.

Will there be days that I settle for a lame excuse rather than make the best choice?  No doubt.  But each day has the same fresh promise of new Monday and I can choose the get back on the right path.

Joshua 24:15  "choose you this day whom ye will serve....."   I added the emphasis.  This day.  Today.  This year - I will choose to serve the Lord.  To honor Him.  To give Him my best choices.