Saturday, December 1, 2018

On My Heart: December Rhythms

I still keep thinking about that word that grabbed my heart a month and a half ago as we were returning home from our trip east. And it comes back to me as we enter the month of December.

And I'm reminded that maybe of all the months in the year, it is especially important and even crucial that we keep our lives, our hearts in rhythm with His heart this month. 

This most wonderful month of the year, the month of celebrations and of gathering with family and friends, can also become filled with stress and an overload of busyness. For everyone, but possibly more so for mothers and also for grandmothers? We have much to do as we prepare for times of celebration this month. And it is wonderful; the most wonderful time of the year.

But what I need, what we all need ... 
is to keep in step with our Creator. The One who made us, who gave us this privilege of loving and caring for our families, and for others. 

What can keeping in step with Him   
look like during December?

Maybe it means that we need to slow down a bit, and allow ourselves to do less than we sometimes try to do during this month? There's no doubt that there is a lot we need to do to prepare for Christmas in our homes, but just maybe there are things that we really don't need to do. 

Maybe the best gifts are the simple gifts - the gift of presence. A listening ear, paying attention, taking time to really care. 

And maybe we need to first of all, allow ourselves to be cared for, and to receive His gift of presence. To daily and moment-by-moment, live in His presence. Allowing ourselves times to be still, and to soak up His love and His peace. 

This is what He came for.
 Immanuel, God with us. 

His presence, His "with us", is for all our days, for the month of December; for each day and each moment.

For our quiet moments ...
pausing to soak up His love each day. Reading His Words, reading Advent readings such as The Greatest Gift (which I hope to re-read again this year). Journaling my thoughts, my prayers. Making my life a prayer.

For our days filled with activity ...
as we work at our jobs, as we shop for gifts, as we decorate our homes, as we prepare for our family feasts and times with friends ... inviting Him  into everything we do. Talking with Him about everything; depending on Him for all that we do in preparation for Christmas. Day by day, and moment by moment. There is nothing too small to bring to Him for His help, for His care.

For each day of this month ...
walking and living in rhythm with Him. Opening our hearts, our eyes, to Him. Watching for His gifts everywhere. Watching for all the ways He loves us. Watching for the people that need our love, His love. 

Lord, may I choose to look to You for the rhythms of my life this Christmas. Not to others, not to the hustle and the "to do's". But to You, "God with us".

The second in a series of posts on rhythms.
The first ... On My Heart: Rhythms

Monday, November 19, 2018

On My Heart: Gratitude

It is good to give thanks. 

At Thanksgiving time, and all through the year. 
Even every day.
All through the day.

"Make thankfulness your 
sacrifice to God."
(Psalm 50:14a)

"Giving thanks is a sacrifice
that truly honors Me."
(Psalm 50:23a)

What makes thankfulness so essential, so important?
Is it really that crucial? Why are we prompted to hold
thanks in our hearts and to speak it, to give it away,
to bring honor to God, to bless others with it?

Could it be that it also holds the key to a deeper,
life-giving relationship with our Creator, our God?

"When we thank and praise God, 
His presence inhabits our lives more and more.
We might think of thanksgiving as a portal
to the presence of God."

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and bless His name."
(Psalm 100:4)

What could this look like for me, for you?

At the start of the day, as we come to Him, come with
thanks on our lips. Develop a habit of praise, of thanks.
In my journal, it has become my habit, to start out
with thanks, to write out my thanks. A record of thanks.
A gift to Him of my thanks. And it fills me up
with His presence, with joy. A gift to Him that brings joy
to Him ... and also to me. Lifting my thoughts off of the
concerns, the tasks; lifting my heart to Him, to joy.

As we practice this giving of thanks, 
"our minds are primed to notice good things, and so we
become more grateful, joyful, and content". 

And in honoring God with our praise, and in becoming more
aware of His presence and His gifts through our thankfulness,
we become a blessing to others. Gratitude overflows in thanks
and words of affirmation and love to those around us.

"But I will sing of Your strength
and will joyfully proclaim
Your faithful love in the morning.
For You have been a stronghold for me,
a refuge in my day of trouble."
(Psalm 59:16)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

On My Heart: Rhythms

Sometimes a single word can grab our attention, and not let go. It sticks in our minds, turning over and over. 

This happened for me in October. It was near the end of our 20-day New England Fall Trip. I had a growing desire for a thought, a new idea or perspective to take home with me. Maybe a new word. Going from 20 days of a much-anticipated vacation trip (such a wonderful road trip visiting our son in NYC and then driving up into the New England states to soak up the beauty of autumn colors), back to the fullness and also busyness of daily life ... well, I just wished for some fresh perspective.

And it came. The word kept appearing in various places, repeatedly, and then it stayed with me. I couldn't get it out of my mind. It intrigued me and drew me in. And since then, it has continued to grow as additional layers of understanding and insight are added.

That word is ... r-h-y-t-h-m-s.

The word popped out to me as I started reading the book  Survival Guide for the Soul by Ken Shigematsu near the end of our trip. The first words in the foreword by Ann Voskamp were:

The drowning keep to-do lists.
Soul survivors keep rhythms.

I'm a to-do list person by nature. But when the lists begin to dictate my days, and become my main focus, I can feel like I am drowning. It's easy to slip into a world of to-do lists, as there is always so much to do. And being productive is held in such high value in our world.

But I am intrigued with rhythms. Focusing on rhythms feels more like freedom. It feels like peace and rest; it feels like the life we are meant to live.

Rhythms .. it implies a steady state of being, of living in the present, of being attentive to whatever God has placed before us. It moves and changes with the seasons, even within our day. But it is tethered and secure, peaceful and constant.

It reminds me of some favorite verses of mine from Matthew 11:28-30, from The Message Translation ...

Are you tired? Worn out?
Come to Me.
Get away with Me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with Me and work with Me -
watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with Me,
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.

I see rhythms in the life of Jesus. He was here on our earth just a short time. Everywhere He looked, everywhere He walked, there were people to care for, a message of hope to share. He did not give in to worry or frenzy in His days, but He modeled rhythms for us. Giving His full attention to the people around Him; spending time with the crowds or spending time with one. And above all, He repeatedly pulled away to spend time with His Father. 

And I want the same ... rhythms of work and of rest. Rhythms of being attentive to what God has for me, of being present with who God places near me. Rhythms of spending quality, consistent time with Him.

There are more thoughts to share, and I'll be back. I'm in a rhythm of work and of rest, of Cru ministry and of home care, of family and of friends, of learning and of sharing. And I'm thankful ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Digital Scrapbooking: Our New England Fall Trip

What would we do without photos? I took so many photos on our recent 20-day road trip to NYC and New England! It will take me awhile to digital scrapbook all of our trip, but here are the three pages that I have completed so far. It was an amazing trip ... one that we prayed for, saved up vacation days and the funds for. And now, we love having the photos to remember our trip with!  

The highlight of our trip was spending time with our son, Lance, in NYC! Each of our five days there was just amazing ... here is a page with photos from our first day there. We met up in Chinatown!

Another highlight was our time in New Hampshire. We tried to time our trip around the fall colors, and it turned out perfect. The leaves were simply gorgeous while we were there!

Note: Most of the page templates and digital products that I use are purchased from Digital Project Life. About seven years ago I switched from paper scrapbooking, and took some online lessons from Digital Scrapper to learn how to digital scrapbook using Photoshop Elements. You can also click here for some great tutorials on the Digital Project Life website - this is a quicker way to learn than the site that I used seven years ago. I recommend using these tutorials. Also, besides being able to share my completed pages online, I also print them out at home in 8x8 inch size to fit in the albums that I purchase from Michael's.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

On My Heart: Our Treasure Within

Do you sometimes feel
small, unnoticed, average -
as I often do?

Just maybe this is
the best place to be.

Maybe if all that people see
is us - our accomplishments,
our gifts, ourselves,
then they would miss the
greater beauty. Within.
The beauty of the gospel
living in us.

"We now have this light
shining in our hearts,
but we ourselves are
like fragile clay jars,
containing this great treasure.
This makes it clear that
our great power is from God,
not from ourselves."
(II Cor. 4:7 NLT)

"We may be worn, average,
unimpressive vessels.
But let it be so -
the true treasure 
is the gospel in us."
(Ruth Chou Simons)

(Thoughts on my mind as we are in NYC. And also, thoughts to remember everyday, wherever we are. We can feel so inadequate at times in this big world, with so much going on, so many influences all around us. We can also be tempted at times to feel like things are all up to us, and we can be so very aware of our limitations and our inadequacy. But life is not all about us. It is about the treasure that we have. Within. The greatest treasure of all.)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Digital Scrapbooking: September

On the last day of this wonderful month of September, a post with two of my digital scrapbook pages from the month! It's very amazing that these pages are completed, as the month has been quite full. But it's always good to take time for a hobby that is both fun for me, and that also preserves memories!

Note: Most of the page templates and digital products that I use are purchased from Digital Project Life. About seven years ago I switched from paper scrapbooking, and took some online lessons from Digital Scrapper to learn how to digital scrapbook using Photoshop Elements. You can also click here for some great tutorials on the Digital Project Life website - this is a quicker way to learn than the site that I used seven years ago. I recommend using these tutorials. Also, besides being able to share my completed pages online, I also print them out at home in 8x8 inch size to fit in the albums that I purchase from Michael's.

Friday, September 28, 2018

On My Heart: Make Your Life a Prayer

Sometimes hearing it just 
a bit differently can grab
our attention in a new way.

This was the case for me
a week ago or so ...

"Pray without ceasing",
or "Never stop praying",
grabs our attention.
And we may wonder how 
that can work out in a
life full of so much
going on all the time.

Is it possible to always
be praying? To never stop?

With God's Spirit in us,
yes, we can join in with
these never-ending prayers
being offered to God for us,
and we also can continually
pour out our hearts to Him,
each day, throughout each day.

And then, these words ...

"Make your life a prayer"

Make your life a prayer.
Words that grab ahold
of my attention and my heart
in a fresh new way.

These words draw my heart
in close, and I want to grow
and learn more ... I want
to make my life a prayer.

On a beautiful, everything
going right kind of day ...
may my thoughts, my heart,
my life - give You praise.

On a day filled with harder
things, with challenges,
and even with heartache ...
may my thoughts, my heart,
my actions - turn to You.

May my life be a prayer,
bringing all things to You,
trusting You, depending on
You, giving You praise and
thanks all the day through.

 By Your grace, I long to
 make my life a prayer.

(Sharing thoughts from my heart and my journal on my birthday week. And desiring that I will grow and learn, and that I may, by God's grace - make my life a prayer - in deeper ways than before as I enter this next year of my life. Sometimes as I am reading His Words, I turn to another translation to give added insight. Last week I opened up The Passion Translation New Testament that I have, and read these words from I Thess. 5:17: Make your life a prayer. Such beautiful insight - sharing with you, and hoping it blesses you, as well.)

Monday, September 24, 2018

In the Kitchen: September

Just for fun at the start of this new fall season ... a post I started working on a few weeks ago about a few things that have been happening in my kitchen! I always love to try new recipes, and here are a few I've tried out recently ...

Cheesy Skillet Pizza Dip

I made this on the first football game day of the season ... and we really liked it! Will definitely be keeping this recipe! So good!!

Print from Taste of Home: Cheesy Skillet Pizza Dip

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Chocolate Chips

This was also a new recipe to try, and I do agree, the use of a pudding mix in the recipe adds to the deliciousness of these cookies! 

Jace's Breakfast Burritos

This is a great breakfast recipe! These breakfast burritos also freeze well, perfect for pulling out for future breakfasts.

Print from Good Cheap Eats: Jace's Breakfast Burritos

BLT Pasta Salad

Though I haven't found a link for this recipe (from All Recipes magazine) to share here, it was a great combination of bow-tie pasta, bacon, tomatoes, red onion, shredded romaine lettuce, and bottled ranch dressing. A good addition of a pasta salad to my collection.

Local Farmer's Market (Wenninghoffs)

Fresh veggies from a nearby farmer's market ... always a good addition to any summer/fall meal!

My New Instant Pot

I'll be trying out recipes in my new Instant Pot in the weeks/months to come! I purchased it a number of months ago at a great price (with some gift money!), and have been collecting recipes to try. 

What's been happening in your kitchen?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

On My Heart: Rest Amidst the Busy

Does the same thing happen to you when fall approaches?

Though I absolutely love fall, the change of season from summer to fall sometimes pushes an I need to get busier button in my heart. Not that I haven't had things to do in the summer, but maybe because the back-to-school season also brings a new set of responsibilities and deadlines with it. It's a busy season with Cru for us, and also maybe the glimpses of the end of the year approaching (and the holidays) can put me into a mode of hurry, wanting to get projects taken care.

But this beautiful season of fall is not made for hurry ...

And we do not operate well in hurry-mode. I don't. It brings stress and unrest. God intends for us to rest, and to refresh. Not just once during the year, but as a continual habit and routine. We are made for rest. 

Be still and know that I am God.
(Psalm 46:10a)

But how can we be still amidst the hurry? 

Sometimes it takes a concentrated effort ... to rest

Intentional effort, to rest.

We need to allow ourselves to stop from our never-ending responsibilities.

To take an hour, a few hours, even a day to just pause from our work. Not just once. But often. Making it a continual habit. Taking time, making time ... to do something that gives us joy and rest. A neglected hobby, a good book, time with a family member, a friend. 

To pause with His Word, with journal ... listening, letting truth soak down deep. Not hurrying, but purposefully slowing. Quieting our hearts, asking Him to teach us. Reading His Words ... listening closely to His Words. 

Let your roots grown down into Him,
and let your lives be built on Him.
Then your faith will grow strong
in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2:7)

Let's not let busy and hurry characterize this next season.

Let's "make rest realistic from now through the Advent season." (Shelly Miller)

"Women are heroes when it comes to loving and caring for others. But why is it so hard to give ourselves permission to rest and refresh, when we're stressed and need it most? Deep inside us, God created an inner spirit that needs nurturing." (Bonnie Gray)

Let's let the core of who we are, our deepest hearts, pause this season, letting our roots grow down deeper into His peace, His love, and who He created us to be ... His beloved.

For your encouragement, and mine,
a few blog posts by some authors on this very topic ...


(Note: I wrote these words for myself, as I have recently come off of a few weeks of feeling a bit more stress than usual ... reminding myself to pause and to rest, and, just maybe these words will be an encouragement to you, as well.)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Capturing our Summer with Digital Scrapbooking

It has definitely been awhile since I've shared a digital scrapbooking post. A fun little hobby of mine is capturing our memories by putting photos together on my laptop with digital scrapbooking. You can read about the way I do it later in this post ...

But since it's been awhile (my last post about this was in April), I'll catch up by sharing one page from each month since then.

From the month of May: some photos from our oldest granddaughter's wedding in Texas ... a beautiful day!

From the month of June: memories of a special three-day visit with our youngest granddaughter here!

From the month of July: a wonderful visit with family home from Texas, and celebrating a special birthday!

From the month of August: an end-of-summer treat -  a very fun day with family on a nearby lake!

And now, we are heading into September in a few days! It was great to have some time during our vacation week this summer to catch up with a lot of pages. Always a joy for me when I can work with photos, capturing memories.


Note: Most of the page templates and digital products that I use are purchased from Digital Project Life. About seven years ago I switched from paper scrapbooking, and took some online lessons from Digital Scrapper to learn how to digital scrapbook using Photoshop Elements(You can also click here for some great tutorials on the Digital Project Life website - maybe a quicker way to learn than the site that I used six years ago.) Also, besides being able to share my completed pages online, I also print them out at home in 8x8 inch size to fit in the albums that I purchase from Michael's.