Saturday, October 31, 2015

October in Review

Another month is nearing an end, and before we enter into the new month of November, I'll share a collection of what I have written about during October. I continue to be so thankful to God for granting me pockets of time to do something I love to do so much ... writing, and sharing here on my blog! Click on the caption of each photo to see the post ...

It's always fun to welcome a new month with a photo and a short post ...

Welcome October

My devotional posts this month, which are the heart of my blog and the main reason that I write, were connected with my reading of Emily Freeman's book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. Such a good book, and perfect timing for me to read it, as the topics were things that God had already been impressing on my mind in recent weeks/months.

Living Small

Control or Rest

Listen, Love, and Pray

Walking with Our Smallness

October holds the memories of when my mother passed on to heaven. It was a special privilege to be able to visit her gravesite in mid-October as we were driving across the state. And it was meaningful for me to write a post with some of my memories.

Eight Years Later

I love to put up recipe posts each month, but somehow, I only was able to put up one during the whole month - very unusual. It was a collection of the soup recipes that I have posted in previous months/years here on my blog. I love fall, and also soup season!

The Season for Soups

Then it was fun to write a very unusual post for me ... focusing on how I manage to get our home cleaned. I've been doing some "fall cleaning" this month in preparation for our whole family being home for Thanksgiving (22 of us in all!), so it seemed a good time to write a bit about this topic.

15-Minute Cleaning

It's always fun, too, when I can post one of my digital scrapbook pages ... this month I shared one of several pages from our trip to Colorado Springs in mid-October. It was such a beautiful time of year to be there!

I am so thankful for God's presence, love, and strength through all that this past month held ... there is never a dull moment in this full life! And I am thankful for the connections with family and friends, and also, with those who have connected with me through my writing here, and on other places of social media. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Trip to Colorado Springs

We are in our "empty nest" season of life, where life is very full! And in the midst of this full life of family (six grown kids, and now, ten grandkids!), and work/ministry (still working full-time with Cru) ... we have learned to put a high priority on taking advantage of the vacation time that we are allotted. 

Whenever we have a chance, we'll take some days to be refreshed. One such time was in the middle of this month. We drove to Colorado Springs for a regional Cru conference, and then ... stayed a few days longer to take in some of the sights of the area, and to rest and be refreshed.

It was a beautiful time of year to be there ... we drove up Pike's Peak on one of those extra days, and the next day spent some time at beautiful Seven Falls!

Thankful for digital scrapbooking to preserve the memories. And thanking God for the beauty of His creation, and for the great gift of a few days to relax and be refreshed together as a couple.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

15-Minute Cleaning

I'm one who likes to have her home in clean order, and one who loves organizing, but ... the weekly tasks of actually cleaning are not on my list of favorite things to do. There are just too many other things that I would rather be doing than cleaning! 

When our six children were still at home, it was something that we did together. Or often, they even did it without me! That was the perfect plan for me, and they did a great job!

But those days are past, and now the cleaning of our home is up to me. Straightening and organizing are fun for me, but I have had to figure out how to handle the weekly/monthly/yearly cleaning tasks that are necessary to keep a home in good order. 

I've tried different approaches over the years, but the one that seems to work best for me is what I call ...

15-Minute Cleaning

Instead of focusing on a particular task of cleaning (such as cleaning the bathroom, or dusting, or cleaning the kitchen floor), I'll focus instead on a block of time. Such as 15 minutes. If you put your mind to it, you can do even the most mundane task for just 15 minutes. 

There are many things that can be accomplished in about 15 minutes. Most of my weekly cleaning chores can each be accomplished in that amount of time: cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen floor, etc. 

On a typical week, I set aside a 15-minute block of time each day. It usually looks like this: Mondays - bathrooms; Tuesdays - dust main level; Wednesdays - vacuum main level; Thursdays - clean kitchen/dining room floor. Fridays are for catching up if I missed a day, and Saturdays are for a few other cleaning jobs. Sometimes the 15-minute time stretches into 20, or 30 minutes. But the 15-minute block of time is what draws me to start the task, and then it's not so difficult to keep going to finish the task!

Sometimes I'll actually set the timer. Sometimes I'll watch/listen to a Periscope session from one of my favorite bloggers, or even listen to an inspirational podcast. Or to music on my iPhone. 

Time Blocks 

When there are bigger cleaning chores that require more time, I use the same mentality of breaking the tasks down into manageable portions. And I'll block off a bigger portion of time in the day or week for cleaning.

For example, this is how I am washing all the windows on our main floor and our upper level this fall. Each window actually consists of four window panes that need to be cleaned, and also means that they must be removed from the window frame - cleaned, and then returned. 

Washing windows is one of my least favorite cleaning chores to do, but this plan is working well for me ...

I have been setting aside one hour each week beginning the end of August through the end of October (except for two weeks that we were out of town), for cleaning the windows. Eight windows cleaned over eight weeks! If I had left them until I "had the time" to wash windows, or I felt like washing windows, they would not get cleaned. But I can handle cleaning windows for one hour each week over a two-month period. (And I also schedule this one-hour/week at a time when my dear hubby is home, and he helps by taking the large windows out and then putting them back after I have cleaned them. He also goes the extra mile and cleans the screens for me, as well. He is so sweet!)

So instead of focusing on all the cleaning tasks, I can just focus on a block of time. Fifteen minutes. One hour. And the cleaning that would be so easy to just put off gets done!

Time blocks make a big difference for me
in accomplishing a necessary task ...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Walking with Our Smallness

When you make a mistake, when you have a bad attitude about something or someone, when you are anxious or worried, do you sometimes try to fix this uncomfortable place you find yourself in, all on your own? To try to "fix" it, erase it, or even hide it. To try to cover it up, hiding it from reality? Do you find yourself walking this route more often than you care to admit - as I, myself, often do?

We waste so much time trying to escape mistakes, worry, bad attitudes ... when they are just part of our living in a broken world; a part of our humanity.

But what we do with these things that are part of our humanity is crucial. We can hide them, try to cover them up or change them on our own, or ... 

We can admit/confess them to 
our Creator, our Savior. 

Is this what living in our weaknesses and humanity is all about?

Is this what living humble, living small is all about?

"Rather than resenting my weakness,
I believe Jesus is asking me to
confess my weakness."
(Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday)

We can choose to live a life of smallness, of confession ...
  • to honestly bring our realness, our mistakes, our failures, our successes, our everything - to God.
  • to admit, acknowledge, declare our smallness to Him - instead of hiding, and covering up.
  • to lay everything out in the open to our loving God.

I have had to learn this, again, this very week, as I have tried to "fix" something on my own. Isn't this what we do? And this in itself, is part of our humanity. And we can bring even our attempts to fix our mistakes on our own, to Him. If we do, if we admit and accept our own smallness, we will find that we will live the life of freedom that He designed us to live.

Keep company with Me,
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
(Matthew 11:30 MSG) 

"There is still responsibility and action that comes from me.
But my action is not to make right, to make whole, or to make better.
My action is to usher my abilities, inabilities,
failures, and successes all into the presence of Christ."
(Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday)

Sharing thoughts as I continually learn more of what it means to embrace smallness, to confess and admit everything to Him ... and also as I am reading through Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman. (reading chapters 10-12 this past week).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Eight Years Later

It has been eight years already since we buried my dear mother in a small, peaceful cemetery about 128 miles from where we live. And with each year that passes, I think about her, and somehow, I come to know her in deeper ways than before, even though she is no longer with us.

And with this knowing in deeper ways, comes an appreciation in even deeper ways than even before. I have always loved and appreciated her, but as I, myself, progress in years, I gain a more complete understanding of all that my own mother must have felt and experienced throughout her life. And I wish that I could talk with her again, and mostly, just listen as she talks. 

For this is what we need to do most with those we love - just listen. And affirm them, encouraging and drawing them to express the things that matter to them the most.

And I am so blessed -
for I am continuing to listen ...

What we leave behind still speaks. It speaks volumes. It continues to speak after we are gone, and as long as the printed page exists, it keeps on speaking what is on our hearts.

One of my most precious treasures I have from my mother's possessions is a small notebook, filled with typed devotionals, thoughts, and favorite verses. I think that she kept this notebook close to her, so that she would always have at easy access the things that were most important to her. She no doubt used this notebook when she, as a missionary wife, shared with small groups of women, or even larger groups.

I discovered this notebook within this past year while I was helping my father settle into an assisted living apartment. Maybe I had seen it before, but to me, it was a new-found treasure. A glimpse deeper into my mother's heart. I am so thankful that she recorded these thoughts, and I am so blessed that my father passed it down to me. 

There is much recorded in this small notebook. And now, at this eight-year mark, I'm listening to my mother, again ...

Treasured words, copied exactly as written, from my mother's notebook:

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 16:11 ...

Thou wilt show me the path of life;
in Thy presence is fullness of joy,
at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Very often when I hear the words "fullness of joy" I am reminded of an illustration of a man who said, "Suppose that I had an orchard full of the world's greatest varieties of apples - Delicious, Winesaps, Jonathans, Golden Russets, etc. The spicest, juicest, best flavored apples that there are . Suppose that I call all my friends and their families and tell them to come and get apples for a winters supply. So I call them all, Jim, Frank, John and all the friends that I love so much to come and get apples. So my friends come for apples. I ask "What have you in which to put your apples?" And they say, "I have brought my pockets, another says a paper sack, and another a bucket."

Saddened with so small an asking, I turn to them in loving fury and say "Why do you insult me by such small expectancy. Go and get your trucks, put on the sideboards, load in all the empty barrels that you can squeeze in and come and get your supply."

This illustration clearly shows us how our Heavenly Father wishes us to ask of Him. In Him there is fullness of joy, abundance of everything that our heart needs and longs for. So it sounds like its up to us. Are we going to take Him at His word? Ask and ye shall receive that your joy may be full. John 16:24.

- - - - - - -

I am listening, Mother. This is how you lived ... never complaining, always with a smile on your face. Even though your life was a difficult, and challenging one in many ways. You were always full of joy ... you lived what this illustration speaks of. And I long to do the same ...

(Posting this on Oct. 22, 2015, exactly 8 years after Mom's Memorial Service on Oct. 22, 2007. The photo at the top of this post was taken just last week, as we stopped at Mom's gravesite on our way to a conference in Colorado Springs. A beautiful fall day, filled with sweet memories of Mom.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Listen, Love, and Pray

Back in January of this year (how can ten months have gone by already since then?), I shared a post about my word (or for me, words) of the year. You can read the post by clicking here. My three words, for I could not choose just one, are: Pray, Love, and Listen. 

Ten months later, I am reminding myself again of these words. Especially thinking of the word "listen" today ... 

Listening to those we love
is key to loving them,
and to praying for them.

Not only listening to those we love, but also listening to those we have just met, to those in need, to even strangers. Is there anything else that makes you feel loved and valued more than to be listened to? 

It is so easy to be focused on ourselves, to fix our thoughts on what we would like to say when we are in conversation with someone. It takes a concentrated, purposeful effort to take our eyes off of our own agendas, and instead, to focus on listening, really listening carefully, to others.

I am continually asking God to give me a listening heart ...

Understand this,
my dear brothers and sisters:
You must all be quick to listen,
slow to speak,
and slow to get angry.
(James 1:19)

Cultivating a listening heart begins first with cultivating a heart to listen - to God. To listen intently, with a deep desire to hear His heart. To listen carefully, as if we are reading His Words for the very first time. To listen purposefully, committing ourselves to follow, and to act on His Words. 

Have you noticed how little children, though they can be easily distracted, will listen to us with believing hearts? We need to be oh so careful what we say to young children, for they take us at our word and believe what we say. "Jesus tells us to become like children, and little children believe the words they hear." (Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday)

I am praying the same for me, that I will listen to God with a believing heart. And that I will also grow more and more in listening intently and purposefully to others. Loving others deeply, as we are loved by Him. And praying faithfully for others, as He asks us to pray without ceasing.

Sharing thoughts that have occupied my mind and my heart in recent weeks and that often appear in my journal as I ask God to cultivate a listening heart in me each day. And also sharing some thoughts as I have been reading through Emily Freeman's book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World (reading chapters 7-9 in recent days).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Control or Rest

Sometimes my work feels light, 
and then there are times when it feels heavy. 
Like a big weight bearing down on my shoulders. 

How can we become so obsessed with our work that it becomes a burden and  a crushing load that causes us stress, and nearly destroys us at times? 

Somehow we can find ourselves swept into the mindset that everything depends on us, that it is our own efforts that are the most important. That we alone are responsible for the results and the outcome of our hard work. 

This can be true of all that we do as mothers (our days are filled with unending joy, but also unending work), and it can be true of whatever work we are involved with - whether it be a part-time or full-time outside-the-home job, or whether it be in serving and volunteering. 

I sometimes find myself adopting this mindset at times. For example, it creeps up on me when I am preparing for a big, special family event. There is much work to do to prepare for twenty-two family members to be home - rooms to be cleaned, food to be prepared, etc. And instead of enjoying each day's tasks and responsibilities, it is easy for me to become obsessed with wanting to do everything in such a way that somehow I can control the outcome. And the outcome I often desire to control is that I want everyone to feel loved, and want everyone to have the most wonderful time of their lives while they are home! Which is a good thing to desire, but is this really something that I can control?

It is good to work hard and give our best, to plan and to pray - but do we sometimes cross over the line of what is our responsibility, and ... what is God's? Do we sometimes think that we are in control, that it is all up to us? 

Do we forget what we are called to? 

Walk with Me
and work with Me - 
watch how I do it ...
Keep company with Me
and you'll learn to live
freely and lightly.
(from Matthew 11:28-30)

Instead of having outcomes be our focus, our first and foremost focus is a Person. Our focus: walking with Him, working with Him ... and He is the one who accomplishes what He desires to do. We are called to do our part, and He will accomplish His part. 

I'm discovering that the subtle difference between
my work feeling heavy and my work feeling light
lies 100 percent on whether or not
I'm holding on to the outcome of my work.
(Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday)

It is all about keeping company with Him. Today. Each day. Focusing on Him, taking steps - one step after another, following closely. Obeying, trusting, depending on Him.

There is a daily-ness to my work, a small-moment perspective
that whispers for me to connect with the work in my right-now hands,
not because it's going to become something Big and Important,
but because Someone who is Big and Important 
is here, with me, in my today.
(Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday)

Our focus is purposeful. 
The outcome is His.

Lord, teach me to keep my eyes on You. To not try to figure out the result, or control the outcome of my work. To simply walk with You, and work with You, releasing control of the outcome of my work to You.

- - - - - - -

Thoughts and perspective as I am reading through Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World (from chapters 4-6).

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Season for Soups

The beautiful fall season is here, and with it, comes the season for comforting, nourishing soups! During the fall and winter, I usually try to make a big pot of soup once each week. I often do this for our Monday evening meal, and then we have a supply of delicious soup to use for several lunches throughout the week.

And I love it that soup season is here again! I'm in the process of collecting and sharing my soup recipes here on my blog, and so far I have posted recipes for ten of my favorites. I'm looking forward to posting more during this coming season, and also will be discovering some new recipes to try for the first time.

Here are the ten soup recipes that you can find here on my blog ...

Ham & Vegetable Soup

Best-ever Potato Soup

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Living Small

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, the long to-do lists, the pressure to achieve and accomplish. There is so much emphasis on producing, doing better, gaining more followers, making a bigger impact. An emphasis on big and important, rather than on small and ordinary

And it is a breath of fresh air to be reading an amazing book that so beautifully talks about just the opposite of what we are so often pressured into thinking. I am in the midst of reading a brand new book by a very gifted author, Emily Freeman ...  Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World.

embrace small-moment living

I am always reminding myself to embrace the small, to live in the present ... for there is such a pressure to do the opposite. And when we look at Jesus' life, we see the perfect example of small-moment living. We do not see Him hurrying through His short time here on this earth. We see Him walking purposefully and in close connection with His Father, giving His full attention to His present surroundings, to the people who were with Him in the moment. And I long to follow in His example, embracing the everyday; listening, and giving full attention to the small and the ordinary parts of our days.

"The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry
are frequently images of 
the single, the small, and the quiet,
which have effects far in excess
of their appearances: salt, leaven, seed.
Our culture publicizes the opposite emphasis:
the big, the multitudinous, the noisy."
(Eugene Peterson, as quoted in Simply Tuesday)

"It is ingrained in us that we have to 
do exceptional things for God -
but we do not.
We have to be exceptional 
in the ordinary things of life,
and holy on the ordinary streets,
among ordinary people ..."
(Oswald Chambers, as quoted in Simply Tuesday)

Jesus did not need to be known, applauded, or even recognized for who He was - He simply was living His life one day at a time. Keeping His eyes on the Father, living as His Father would have Him live. He actually lived "small", seeking no worldly acclaim. 

What if we chose to do the same? Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Emily Freeman in the first three chapters of her book (which is the point I am at now in reading her book) ... encouraging us to embrace the "small", following the example of Jesus.

"Instead of forgetting or running from my own smallness, what if I chose instead to look it in the face, to settle down into the place where I am, to notice what is happening around me on my ordinary days? What if these small moments are the very portal into experiencing the kingdom of God?"

"What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them. To learn to live well in ordinary time is to keep company with Christ on our simple Tuesdays and remember how He delights in keeping company with us. To live well in ordinary time is to believe within the deepest part of who I am that wherever I go, I don't go alone."

* * * * * * *

Loving Lord, please help me to slow my racing heart, to embrace the small, to be fully present each day, each moment. To listen and love well, to invite You into all my ordinary moments, living in close connection with You. Following You, in each present moment, one step at a time ... 

If you would like to follow along with an online book club, gaining additional insight from the author and with others who are reading her book, as well ... click here to read about the details. This five-week online study begins today!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Welcome October

A brand new month,
filled with fresh, new opportunities ...
colorful, beautiful, vibrant October.

May we live with
our hearts and our minds
wide open to You.

May we embrace the beauty
of the changing colors,
inhale the scents of the season,
warm to the glow of candles.

May we put listening
above speaking,
loving above neglecting,
our families and friends
above our tasks.

May we count the ways
that we are loved by You, 
each and every day.