Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Mountains Are Calling!

My husband and I are taking a few days of much needed 
rest this weekend and attending Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia!

I'll be back on Monday!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Journal of Delight and Discovery - Tools for Living An Authentic Life

In her book, Simple Abundance, author Sarah Ban Breathnach proposes for consideration, that "most women know what makes our parents, partners, or children happy.  But when it comes to an awareness about the little, specific things in life that bring a smile to our face and contentment to our hearts, we often come up short."

I've been reading Simple Abundance annually nearing twenty years now.  With each reading, as I put most of Susan's practices into place, I learned to trust her guidance and began making notes of other books she would recommend.  In the same passage mentioned above, she references a book, A Life of One's Own, written by *Joanna Field (Marion Milner).

Written and published in 1945, the journal was the result of a time in the author's life when she felt her life lacked authenticity, and that she had grown out of touch with the things that made her happy.  She shares,

"It was written in the spirit of a detective who searches through the minutia of the mundane in hopes of finding clues for what was missing in her life."  To counter this, she began noting the things that triggered a feeling of joy and delight in her daily life. And in that effort, she discovered that she delighted in red shoes, good food, golden bursts of sunset, reading in French, answering letters, loitering in a crowd at a fair and, "a new idea when first it is grasped."

In referencing Field's works, Breathnach suggest that "what is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living.  It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love. We must learn to savor, small, authentic moments that bring us contentment."

Though I would say that "savoring the small" has been a natural inclination of mine for most of my life, the draw and influence of social media has made that more of a challenge in my adult life. Which is why I so appreciate being reminded again to touch base with my inner self from time to time and insure that I am living and moving from a place of authenticity.

One year, inspired by Fields, I kept a journal of "Delight and Discovery", in which I noted the things throughout the day that brought me joy. And while that original journal was kept in a simple spiral notebook and is clearly nothing to look at, I enjoy looking back and reflecting upon the similarities and differences in my preferences, both then and now.

Back then I listed, "The sweet sound of Kate's voice when she pleads for "one more story" (she was just four years old when I kept my original journal), and "the smell of cinnamon, cloves and apples simmering on the stove", which was around the time I first discovered simmer pots, which have now given way to wax melts and essential oils. But there are things that remain the same, as well.

- the sound of rain as I fall asleep.
- the smell of a freshly cut grass on a warm summer day.
- Peonies, marigolds and chrysanthemums.
- The smell of cookies baking in the oven (although these days that is not nearly as often)
- The feel of a warm, gentle breeze though an open window.

Of course these things may delight others, as well, but they each speak truly to who I am at the center of my soul, and knowing that grounds me. Having kept that journal for a year, the final list of things is quite long. Looking back I don't know that it would need to be a year long project. If I did it over again, rather than trying to come up with something different every day, I might allow for repetition. In this way, specific things would be revealed that could be incorporated into my days with more frequency.

As you might have guessed, I'm considering keeping such a journal again! As I had already purposed to find pockets of slow in my days over the summer, I think a fresh take might be in order, and I'd LOVE for you to join me! My plan at the moment is to begin on June 1 and end on August 31. I haven't decided yet if I will make daily entries, or just jot things down as they occur, though I do have concerns about consistency and falling out of habit. I will most likely try for at least one entry per day. Some days will naturally have more and others may spark nothing, and that is all good and well. I also don't know if I will share my discoveries along the way, or wait until the end after I've had time to reflect upon it and them share my findings in early September. But, I'm fine with not having all the nuts and bolts sorted for the time being. The most important thing is to remember to be mindful and to document my findings. If I think about it to much, things become complicated and I'm less prone to want to do it at all.

So again, if this sparks your interest, then I encourage you to buy a journal, or dig up a simple spiral notebook you already have on hand. Again, don't overcomplicate things! Then, beginning on June 1 (or now, if you'd rather), begin noting the things that bring you joy and embark on a journey of self-discovery! I remember the last time I did this it was very eye-opening and I learned so much about myself. I can't wait to do it again!

Until then, my friends, savor the small!

*Joanna Fields is the pseudonym of Marion Milner

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Show & Tell - Small Discoveries From Ordinary Life - .02

Here's a half dozen discoveries I came across this week, and felt were worthy to share!  

1. Rocky Hedge Farm
I knew I'd found a kindred spirit the moment Sarah described herself as a "hang laundry from the line, cook from scratch kind of girl".  In perusing her offerings you be surprised to learn that the pictures featured are actually of her double wide manufactured home! I've loved everything I've seen and read here! But this morning I spent some time taking in her seasonal posts, and as you might guess, I think they were my favorite! Pour yourself a cup of coffee, because you will be here for awhile!

2. At The Welcome Table, Breaking Bread Around The World  Part I and Part II
Plough (which is more than worthy of your time itself), asked five friends from five distinctly different places throughout the world to share what hospitality looks like. Interesting reading!

3.When Dreams Wake Up Different
As a 50+ dreamer myself, I found this article inspiring.  I adore her admonishment;

"I can either do nothing at all, or "wake up, little dream!"

Even if you only have one talent, for even the "one-talent servant was expected to somehow expected to invest what the Master had invested in him.", and you have a little dream that's been collecting dust for awhile, maybe this article will inspire you to brush it off and give it a go!

I love this article and couldn't agree more with the suggestions outlined to live a quieter life. And while this article does not reference such, I am often alarmed by the lack of consideration many people hold for the noise they create simply moving through space. Anything that can be done loudly and with great force can likewise be done quietly and with consideration for others. At least, most day to day tasks can be accomplished quietly, and with consideration. I suppose there really is no way to quietly break up concrete with a jackhammer, but these are not the things of which I speak. I am referring to the volume of our voices when speaking, and of the consideration of our steps when walking across a room. Maybe I've just lived too many years in ground floor apartments and believing with certainty that The Wild Things occupied the rooms above. Maybe they find me too quiet and secretive? But given the choice, I'm fine with that!

Maybe the most inspiring article I've read all week.  It has really set me to thinking. Maybe I'll write my own, soon!

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

~ Blaise Paschal

Screen time is definitely difficult to balance in my life, and I myself, as the article mentions, have established days of "Digital Sabbath" in the past. Being reminded of such, I may do so again. Finding the balance is something I think most people struggle with in the era in which we live. This article makes some interesting points that are worth considering whether you are con to social media, or simply considering the purposes for which you use them. It mentions a few apps that may or may not help you in that quest, as most of them, and I can personally attest, be easily manipulated. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

From Grandma's Kitchen - Lunch Room Lady's Chocolate Cake

It is Mother's Day weekend, and I plan to fully indulge in all the things I love most!  Movies, both old and new, dinner on the grill, and one of my all time favorites . . . .


While it's not my absolute favorite, a recipe I'll share another time, it is one of the easiest and tastiest cakes you can make! And in case you've been following my posts and are wondering if I've forgotten my health goals, that answer is no! But I will say this, for me health is all about balance, so while I am working to reduce my sugar intake, I'm not eliminating it completely. I've done well this week with not eating sweets and limiting sweet drinks, knowing that this weekend is not only Mother's Day, but I am also attending a graduation party for one of Kate's friends tonight, so I've had to be extra good so that I can enjoy both. In moderation of course!

That being said, I will most likely send a good portion of this cake on with Bill for his employees to enjoy, because honestly, I can't trust myself not to eat the entire thing over the course of the next week, and neither Bill or Kate are big on sweets.  It's just that tempting!

So, if you're looking for a quick and simple recipe that tastes like you've spent hours in the kitchen baking, this is your new go-to! 

For the cake;
1 cup of butter
½ cup of cocoa
2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
4 tsps of vanilla

For the icing;
¼ cup of softened butter
¼ cup of milk
¼ cup of cocoa
3 cups of powdered sugar
A dash of salt.

Preheat oven to 350° Mix all ingredients together and pour the batter in a 9×13 pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Prepare icing while you let the cake cool. Once cool frost as desired.

Like I said, this cake is so easy, and tastes amazing!  Every time I've made it everyone goes crazy for it!

So what are your plans for celebrating this weekend?  Do you have a quick, simple go-to recipe for such occasions?  If you do, leave a comment and share it with me!

Until then friends, celebrate the ones you love!


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Think About What You Think About -
Conquering Fear and Anxiety With The Truth Of God's Word

I am relishing these longer days, with the sun rising early and lingering late into the evening. The mornings are still cool, but not so much that I can't open the door and allow for the fresh air to fill the room. The bird praise just after sunrise each morning is glorious.

I welcome this peaceful start, as for the past several days I've sensed a restlessness in my spirit that I've struggled to pinpoint. My sleep has been fitful, filled with wild dreams, and two nights in a row now I've awakened, first at 2:00 a.m. and then this morning at 3:00, unable to quiet my mind and drift back to sleep. I've moved to the couch both times, prayed, spent some time on my laptop and prayed again. And then this morning when I looked at the date on my calendar, I realized that it was two years ago this coming Sunday that my mom passed away. She was in the hospital on life support for four days prior to that, and I think that these days will forever be marked now by those memories. It was a grueling and agonizing week, and memories of it linger with me still.

But I sense that there is more, some of which I am aware of but not ready to talk about, at least not here in this space. But one of the things that I will share that is troubling me, is that we need to move again, and to say that I am tired of moving would be an understatement. I have known since Bill moved back home last October, that where we are living now wouldn't work for long. But there was apparently a misunderstanding, and now circumstances have arisen that necessitate that we move sooner than I had expected, and I'm struggling to move forward in peace. But this is what I know, that change will inevitably come, and if my peace, our peace, is built upon our bank account, our address, the number of friends we have on Facebook, or the number of likes our latest post merited on Instagram, upon anything outside of Jesus Christ alone, peace will elude us.  Our circumstances do not determine our peace, only Jesus.

I started a new bible study during my sacred start this week.  If you haven't read my previous post, sacred start is what many refer to as their quiet time.  If you want to know more about why I refer to it as such, you can read that post, here. The study I am doing, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World (link may require that you sign up for a free account), speaks to how our thoughts shapes our actions, and why it is important, as the author admonishes, "to think about what you think about". I will be the first to freely admit, that when it comes to my thought life, well, let's just say it's in stereo and color! Being an introvert, I've spent an incredible amount of time throughout my life, as my mother referred to as, "in my head".  Observant and analytical, if I'm not careful I can analyze myself and the world around me right down into a deep dark hole. I've made efforts over the years, with varying success, to "take every thought captive", but to be honest when you consider my thought life, that in itself is a full time job.

In recent years I've combatted my negative thoughts (I am prone to being a bit of a pessimist), by being more thoughtful with what I allow to enter my mind. I've eliminated certain genres of reading and especially movies and television, when I realized they produced an unrest in my spirit. And then this week I read a verse that built upon this even further. about the analogy of what happens when we try to rid ourselves of negative or dark thoughts, without replacing them with new, life giving thoughts. The author used the example found in Matthew 12:43, about leaving a clean, empty space (our minds) open for more dark negative thoughts to inhabit it again. When we rid our minds of dark, anxious or sinful thoughts but do not replace those thoughts with the truth of God's word, the enemy returns with seven other spirits more wicked than before to torment us. I was encouraged when I read, "There is a better way to control our thoughts, and it's not "try harder". Instead we fill our minds with the truth and promises that Christ has given to us. Truths such as;

"We have the mind of Christ." 
- 1 Corinthians 2:16

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good pleasing and perfect will." 
- Romans 12:2

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 
- 2 Corinthians 10:5

"Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, 
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, 
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." 
- Philippians 4:8

It was this last verse that first made me become more aware of what I allowed to enter my mind, and I've been amazed at the difference I've felt in my spirit. But my biggest, continuing battle when it comes to taking my thoughts captive, is fear and worry. I realized recently that in my pessimism, I've grown cynical.  Because I've experienced pain and disappointment before, I just naturally assume that history will repeat itself.  Since our thoughts control our actions, I believe that some of the struggles I've encountered over the years were a direct result of that thought pattern. A self fulfilling prophecy.

Armed with this new found knowledge, in those moments when I feel fear and anxiety arise, especially with regards to our need to move again, I will fill my mind with these truths from scripture.  Promises such as;

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, 
or what you will wear. . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be given to you as well." 
- Matthew 6: 25, 34


"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, which transcends 
all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." 
- Philippians 4:6-7

and finally,

"Consider the ravens, they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; 
yet God feeds them. . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  
Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" 
- Luke 12:24-26

I cut my teeth on these truths. These are the same messages I heard in my youth, but even now in my adult life, the enemy still seeks to pluck the rooted seeds of His word.  In giving thought to my worries, I realize that while I've known in my heart that I "should not" worry, I was guilty of thinking that if I just "tried harder"not to, that things would get better. Every time I would think of moving, of the hardship of packing up once again, of the hours of looking for a place that we can afford, and worrying that with our limited budget what that might be, and being fearful (this is where my heart has been for weeks now), as much as I knew that I shouldn't worry, I didn't combat  those negative thoughts with the truth and promises of God's word. But that ends today.

I don't know what tomorrow, even this afternoon holds for me. But one thing I do know is that I am 57 years old and I've survived every day of my life so far. That may sound silly, but when you think about it, it's true. There has never been a day of my life so far that I went hungry or did not have a place to rest my head. My Father, who loves me, knows my needs (your needs). He created me and instilled His purpose within me, and He will see it through until it's completion. These are promises, from His word that as His child we can all claim!  He knows my needs, and He will provide for me and for my family, just as he does every day for the birds of the air, and just as He had done every single day of my life thus far, and as He has promised that He will continue to do.

Give me a ravenous faith, Lord.  One that hungers for you more than for what I will eat, or wear, or where I will lay my head.  Quicken your truth in my heart and fill my mind, which is the mind of Christ, with your word!

And may it be so, my friends, for you!

Until then, rest in His peace!


Monday, May 6, 2019

My Morning Routine - An Update!

I thought I would pop in quickly this afternoon and let you know how my morning routine is going, and to start things off, I want to confess that today was the first day I actually followed my plan.

In my previous post I had mentioned that I was going to try to implement this while my husband was away for a few days hiking, and sense last Wednesday was May 1, I decided that would be perfect.  Except, my husband ending up coming home a day early because the temperatures were much colder than he planned for, and he didn't want to spend another uncomfortable night in the cold.  Who could blame him? So while I was happy to have him back early, it did throw a little wrench in my plans.

At first I considered just bumping everything to Thursday, but I'm weird about things like that, I don't like starting things at the end of the week, so that was when I made the decision to just wait until today, which is also the first full week of May.

To help me to remember all-the-things and because every day is a different and I do some things M-W-F and others T-TH-S, I decided to make myself a chart, which you can see a little  in the image on the left.  And, wouldn't you know, the minute I upload this I realized that I left off "Eat Breakfast", and if you will remember in my previous post, that is something that I struggle to do on a consistent basis.  So, after I finish this post, I'll be adding that in and re-printing a fresh copy.

The plan is to print one of these off every Saturday for the upcoming week and then keep it in a place where I will see it regularly throughout the day to remind me what I need to do. As far as my morning routine goes, what I've included is

- Oil Pulling (M, W, F) If you are not familiar with oil pulling, just google it, there's LOADS of information out there!

- Lemon Tea - my recipe is 1 cup of hot water, 1/2 of an organic lemon, juiced, 1 T. honey and a dash of cayenne.  I want to get back into the habit of drinking this EVERY morning, and again, if this isn't something you are familiar with, just google it.  But for the sake of this post, I'll discuss and oil pulling another time.

- Sacred Start - This is what some people refer to as their "Quiet Time", but I'm going to be honest here.  That word triggers me a little, and reminds of a time in my life when my faith was very much about checking things off a list and heavily works based.  Now that I've developed a relationship with the Lord, this is time I can't wait to spend with Him, and it sets me up for the rest of my day!  When I made this chart I knew that I DID NOT want to call it my "Quiet Time" and that was when I came up with "Sacred Start", which essentially means, starting my day with my Savior!  The only reason it is third on the list is because I am doing my oil pulling and drinking my lemon tea while I am in the word and praying, so that actually all happens kind of simultaneously.  There is also a cup of coffee that gets thrown in that mix!

- Eat Breakfast - and this is what I left off of my chart.

After this, there are a number of things I do depending on the day of the week, but on this chart in particular they are all related to my health, both spiritual, physical, emotional and financial. I am sure as a result of this that it will constantly be evolving, because there are a number of goals that I want to add into the mix, but I didn't want to overwhelm myself with too much in the beginning.  One of the goals I am focusing on now is, getting myself back into the habit of walking and hiking and working out with weights. So, on M-W-F I have a goal to walk 4 miles, and then on T-TH-S, I will work out with weights. I am also trying to increase my water intake, while at the same time,  reducing my sugar intake.  You will notice I did not say eliminating sugar, and that **may** come in time, but right now I'm more interested in balance. That is why you might have noticed that I schedule a "cheat day" on Sundays, when I give myself some grace to indulge. I am also flexible with that day, because this week, for example, I am going to a graduation party Friday night, and so I might want to eat a piece of cake, in which case, Friday will be a my cheat day.

So there you have it!  Today I made a strong start, and I am especially happy about getting in my four miles, but I am still struggling to get drink more water.  I am not drinking soda, but what typically happens is that I just stop drinking all together and end up dehydrated, and that's never a good thing.  Since I'm walking again, hydration is important!  I am going to leave you with a picture from the gardens that are at the beginning of the trail where I walk.  It's a memorial garden for people who have died from cancer, very solemn but very beautiful.  Everything is blooming right now, and I was so taken in that I just had to take a few pictures.

And with that, I hope your week is off to a great start!  I'll be back with a new post on Wednesday, and I'll be updating you on my progress with my morning routine and fitness plan again next Monday!

Until then, savor every moment!


Friday, May 3, 2019

From My Reading - Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman

Last month I purchased The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman, and could hardly wait to dive into it. I bought the Kindle version, because the amount of books that are taking up space in our house right now really is astounding, even after having downsized a number of times.  If buying books is an illness, I hope they never find a cure! Though in the interest of space, and after lugging far too many heavy boxes of books with each move, I have learned to appreciate maintaining a digital library.

As is often the case when I purchase a book, I will inquire on other titles the author has written, which was when I discovered that I had previously purchased her book, Simply Tuesday. In typical fashion, that was also the moment I realized that I had never read it. In light of this discovery, I quickly concluded that the next right thing for me to do was to read the first book, not that one depends upon the other. I think this probably has more to do with my OCD, in which case there is no argument for the order in which should be read, at least, not in my mind. :)

Often when I read a book I'll take notes, noting passages that resonate with me and that I don't want to forget. And almost as often, my thoughts concerning them will find their way into my posts, as is the case today. I'm in the second part of the book, which is grouped into five parts with three chapters in each, so I still have a way to go. But I'm taking my time, and because there is so much that I relate to, I'm taking lots of notes. This morning I finished Chapter 4, which speaks to Efforts and Outcomes, and the words just spoke to my soul. The message she shares aligned completely with where my heart is and has been for some time, but especially in light of my recent desire to pare down my social media numbers and return to what I refer to as "old fashioned blogging"

Without giving too much away, because if you haven't already, you really should just read the book, one of the ideas she speaks to is embracing your smallness. Like the kind of small you might feel when you stand on the shore of the ocean, or look up into a big starlit sky. Remembering, essentially, that God is God, and we are not. Because it's easy to get so caught up in the busyness of life and take on the mindset that somehow all of this, especially our success, is completely dependent upon and because of us. My daddy used to refer to that as, "getting too big for your britches", and I think God would concur.  One of the headlines in this chapter is titled, "Being Able to Build It, But Not Being Able To Fill It", which speaks primarily to the way numbers have taken on so much significance in our lives. How many friends do I have on FB, how many followers on Instagram?  How many people liked my post, commented or left a message, or re-pinned my pin? How much money is in my bank account, how much did I make last month, last year? It's pretty staggering, if you really think about it. Especially when you consider that if your numbers are low, it can make you feel small, and not in the standing on the shore of the ocean kind of way, small as in, unimportant, unpopular, undesired. Even if we claim that numbers don't define us, I know that for me personally, I've still taken it too much to heart.

As it relates to blogging, it's honestly one of the reasons why I gave up the idea of trying to grow my blog and social media accounts into a business. I took several classes in the beginning, and all the focus on numbers and growing your followers, and things like algorithms, and the best time of day to post on each social media platform to get more likes quickly overwhelmed me. And please know that I'm not negating the experts, because they are all successful bloggers supporting themselves and their families solely upon the income they generate from their own blogs. It is a proven science and it does work, I just discovered that it wasn't going to work for me, at least not any time soon. After several months of trying to write posts, take blog-worthy pictures, keep up with all the times I needed to post on social media, and assuring that I even had anything remotely interesting to share, I gave up. In spite of the fact that I've been told for more than half of my life that I should write, it all felt very heavy and I realized that it was quickly becoming about me. My God-breathed gift for writing was now hard, because somewhere along the way I had bought into the lie that the outcome was on me.

Now don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that we are responsible to grow and put to use the talents and gifts that God has entrusted to us. I wouldn't want to be the one who buried my talents in the dirt. But I believe that if God has called met to something, while I am responsible for making the effort, the outcome rests solely with Him. I could follow every algorithm, post on social media at all the right times, and write a post for my blog every day, and I still have no control over how many people actually read, like, share or comment on my posts, and if those numbers are small, especially in the beginning, I need to be ok with that. Because my growth rate is not determined by the world, but by God. Who gets to say if I only get five likes on an Instagram post that I'm not making progress?  No one. Because what God has gifted in me, He will grow in me, and in you! It was His gift and purpose from the beginning, and we are the ones who make it about us when we lament over our posts not going viral. Personally, for me, I hope that never happens.

I don't know that I will ever generate a dollar from blogging, much less an income that would support me. But I do know that if God is in this, as I believe He is, there is nothing I can do to stop it, so long as I continue to make much of Him, and little of me. For now I'm content with where I'm at and with being what the world may deem as "small" in the big world of blogging and social media. Progress is progress, even when it's slow. The author reminds us of David, who was anointed by Samuel twenty-one years before he became king over all of Israel. In the mean time, he was a shepherd and a musician, which to the world may have seemed less, or small. For David the number was 21, and I am certain that there were times when he counted those years, and questioned. But the truth is, David was already a king, even in the fields watching over his flock, because God had said he would be. Just as I am already successful, to whatever degree He has already established, and it will come in His time.

So in whatever way you feel small today, my friends. Claim the promises, embrace your calling, and believe that because God has willed it so, that you already are! Regardless of the numbers, in spite of how little progress the world reminds you that you have made. We are the instruments though which His purpose and plan are carried out, but the outcome has been established since the dawn of creation. Rest in that, and live at peace.

Embracing small,

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Celebrate the Ordinary in May!

National Barbecue Month


National Barbecue Month
National Hamburger Month
National Salad Month


Ah, May!  One of the loveliest months of the years, with so many opportunities for sweet celebrations!  This month we remember those who gave their lives in service to our country, we honor our mother's, and celebrate Spring as the days lengthen and slowly stretch into summer!  The added sunlit hours and warmer temperatures beckons us outdoors. So why not choose one or two ideas from the list below, invite one a few friends and celebrate!  May is truly a month of beauty, be sure to make time to notice!

May 1
May Day
You can learn about the history of May Day, and how it became the Spring celebration it is today, here. To celebrate, I am loving these Mini May Pole Bundt Cakes!And on short notice, you do put the same together using ready made cup cakes from your local bakery in place of the bundt cakes! These ribbon wands are sweet, as well, and could easily take the place of the more traditional May pole, with the children dancing in a circle! Or perhaps something a bit more elaborate like the hoop shown in this post!

May 4
Bird Day
Did you pick a bird for the year?  This is a fun tradition I picked up from my sweet friend, Dawn, a couple of years ago.  My bird this year is the The Black Capped Chickadee! And while my original plan was to document how many times I observed it over the course of the year, I've found the living in a basement efficiency apartment with no windows isn't very conducive to achieving that goal.  But if you haven't chosen  a bird for the year, maybe today would a good day to do so!

May 5
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. But everyone seems to like to get in on this celebration and enjoy some Mexican food! Growing up in Texas, Tex-Mex is probably hands down my favorite, and I have a wealth of recipes saved on my Mexican Pinterest board! You're sure to find one you will like!

May 12
Mother's Day
This day needs no explanation, so treat your Mama good! This year I've requested "experiences" over gifts, and our plan is to see the new movie on the life of Tolkien, though that may happen in the days before.  Then on Mother's Day, I've requested that we go hiking together as a family, and I think since Kate and I hiked Sharp Top last year, this year we are going to tackle Flat Top. Afterwards I hope to celebrate with dinner on the grill at one of the lovely picnic areas at the foot of the mountain, so hopefully the weather will cooperate! What are your plans?

May 15
National Chocolate Chip Day
For me, no other recipe tops the Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie, it is simply the best! And so in honor of the Chocolate Chip, I think I'll bake up a batch and send some on to the employees my family works with!

May 16
Love a Tree Day 
I've been a tree lover from way back!  And when the girls were little we would often pick a special tree and observe and document the changes throughout the year, which was always fun! But now that they are grown, I love for other ways to support reforestation and tree preservation, and bring awareness to organizations like One Tree Planted.  You can learn more about them at their website and find out how you can get involved!

May 20
Pick Strawberries Day
The strawberry fields around where I live are plentiful, and picking fresh strawberries is always so much fun! If you've never been do, take the time to do a little search and see if there is a patch near you and take the whole family!

May 23
Lucky Penny Day
My dad always loved finding pennies in obscure places and  picking them up, and it delighted me as a child, as well. And while I've never actually take the time to do it, I've always thought it would be fun to clean up some  pennies until they shined and then leave them in various places for others to find! 

May 25
National Brown Bag It Day
It's been a number of years since I was in school and actually packed my lunch in a brown bag! But wouldn't it be fun to do just that and meet up with a few friends at a park close by for lunch? It's cheaper, and healthier than fast food, with the added benefit of being in nature and soaking in some vitamin D!

May 27
Memorial Day
Memorial Day is the day we honor and remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country, and for many (including me), it marks the unofficial launch of Summer! In my mind summer stretches from one patriotic holiday to the next, bookended by Memorial Day and Labor Day with Independence Day about mid-way through!We tend to celebrate each of these  days in much the same way,with a cookout! Most years its' hot dogs with potato salad  and baked beans!How does your family celebrate this day?

May 28
National Hamburger Day
While I don't really need to set aside a special day in indulge in my love for hamburgers, I certainly won't pass it up! And with 25 Epic choices, I'm sure there is one that will hit the mark! I've actually got my eye on that Blue Cheese Burger on a Brioche roll, and Onion Chutney! But the Guacamole Burger with JalapeƱo Mayo, may beat it out! I wonder what that one would taste like if I added the onion chutney? And if beef is not your thing, the Bacon Cheddar Chicken Burger looks tempting!


Monday, April 29, 2019

Living With Intention - My Morning Routine

I don't know if anyone else is like me, but in my life "routine", is almost laughable. With three of us currently living in an efficiency apartment (we are planning to move soon), and two of those occupants working retail jobs, our day to day lives are anything but routine. There are seldom two days in a given week when we are all on the same schedule. And when either Bill and Kate may open one day and close the next, that means there really are no set bed times or wake up times in our house anymore, and to be honest, it's left me a bit frazzled.

If it were not for the fact that I am not working outside the home at the time, I'm not sure how I would manage. And while being at home does allow for flexibility on my part, I often feel that trying to accommodate for the needs of everyone else makes my day feel unstructured. I'm not complaining here, I'm happy to help, even if I am teetering in the imbalance. 

Thankfully, I tend to be an early riser, so that even on days when both Bill and Kate open, I am usually up for a good hour before either of them. I am also a morning person and I am most productive before 2:00 p.m. After that I can physically feel my energy begin to dwindle, and while an afternoon cup of tea or coffee will usually carry me through the remainder of the afternoon, I still find it harder to focus and I am not as productive. Typically, I like to wrap dinner up no later than 6:30/7:00, earlier if the schedule allows, and after that I am pretty much done for the day both mentally and physically.

In light of this, I feel that most days I just fly by the seat of my pants and **hope** that the most important things get done. I do have set days for laundry (Mondays and Thursdays). I change the sheets every Friday, so I'm good with the weekly, perhaps, bigger tasks. It is often the little daily things, like eating breakfast, and I'm not joking here, that don't always happen. In most cases I am not hungry right away and my stomach needs a little time to wake up. But what often occurs is that someone will need my help getting out the door, or I might have an early appointment and need to be out at a certain time myself, and on those mornings I will frequently forget to eat. I used to never eat breakfast, and sometimes even forgot to eat lunch, but those bad habits wrecked my digestive system and I'm still paying for it today. I've also found that if/when I don't eat breakfast, I tend to snack more during the day and my sugar cravings are higher late in the day. Additionally, there are also days when my quiet time doesn't happen, and while my relationship with the Lord is strong, I recognize a notable difference in my spirit when too many days pass when I haven't been in the word. My relationship with Him affects every other area and relationship in my life and time has proven that my entire day flows better when I begin the day in His word.  

So, what do I do? Living in a one room apartment means that even if I get up earlier than everyone else, I still have to be extra quiet and keep lights to a minimum, which thankfully isn't hard for me, I tend to move pretty quietly through space anyway. But the lack of lighting is the biggest reason why my quiet time often doesn't happen and I instead find myself immediately drawn to Facebook or Instagram. To counter that,  last week I started doing an online devotional, since the light from my laptop provides the light I need without disturbing Bill.  The only problem with that is that I prefer to keep notes in my journal and highlight verses in my bible, which means I need more light.  I've tried breaking things up and waiting until Bill gets up to do that, but it makes it feel a little disjointed. I like for things to flow, so quiet time part 1 and part 2 isn't really working for me. It's also hard to make coffee right now, but only because Bill prefers whole beans and that means it has to be ground. Thankfully it only took a couple of days of carrying the grinder and coffee to the bathroom, to remind me to do it the night before. We use a pour over to make our coffee, so other than heating the water in the kettle, so as long as I make sure the beans are ground, making my morning cup isn't very noisy.

With all of that, the one thing I know is that if I am going to establish a routine and be successful, I'm going to have to keep things simple. Because when you're operating mostly in the dark or with very little light, you're limited in what you can do anyway. I'm just thankful that the bathroom is separated by a wall so that I don't have to brush my teeth and hair in the dark.  And so, after thinking things through, here are my initial thoughts on establishing a routine;

❈ - Get up at 5:00 a.m. - I tend to naturally wake up around this time anyway, but occasionally I will sleep later and it throws off my entire day, so I'm going to start setting an alarm just in case.

❈ - Brush teeth / hair - I may also start getting dressed first thing because it tends to make me more productive. Staying in my pajamas makes me feel lazy and I'm more prone not to do what needs to be done. Getting dressed signals my brain that my day has begun.

❈ - Do my quiet time in a chair, not spread out on the couch. For months now I've been moving straight from the bed to the couch every morning, but guess what happens?  I fall back to sleep!  Sitting at the table shouldn't disturb Bill any more than being on the couch, and I think if I move the light on the buffet that is behind the table to the opposite end, it may even give me enough light to do my quiet time and still be able to see my bible and journal.

❈ - Eat Breakfast!  Some mornings if Bill is going in late and I don't have anywhere to be he likes to cook, and that's GREAT! But on the mornings that he has to leave early or on the rare occasion that I have somewhere to be, I need to force myself to eat something and have easy, ready made options available, like yogurt, which I need to eat more of anyway.

And that's it, simple, easy and do-able, at least, I **think** it is.  But to test that, I've decided to commit to starting this routine on May 1 and keeping it for 30 days. Actually, it will end up being a little more than 30 days because I am going to do a test run beginning tomorrow morning while Bill is away on an overnight hike for a few days. That way I can figure out everything I need to have in place while he is gone so that when he gets back, I'll already know how to prepare and lessen the possibility of disturbing him. I've already discovered in thinking this through, that part of a successful morning begins the night before, like making sure the coffee is ground and ready. So that has me thinking about my evening routine and what that might look like, and I'll be sharing that with you as well. In the mean time, also be posting a few updates to let you know how things go over the next 30 days as I attempt to put this into practice, so be looking for that if you are interested!

To help in my reaching my goal, I've purchased Crystal Paine's program, Make Over Your Mornings! I actually bought this over a year ago, but remember what I said about things not getting things done?  Make Over Your Mornings is a 14 day program, so that will get me about half way into my 30 day goal, and in time I'm hoping to pick up a few ideas and tips for making my mornings and thus my days flow a little better!  I've already looked over the content and I'm really excited!  And just as an FYI, I am currently not an affiliate of this program, although I may choose to be once I've finished it. As a rule, I don't promote anything on my blog that I haven't personally tried! I want to always be able to give you a personal, honest opinion regarding the products I promote here!

If you are looking to bring a little structure and order to your days as well, then I encourage you to follow along and check out Crystal's program! Just click the image above to learn more and sign up!  I'm looking forward to a fresh start to my day and to sharing what I learn along the way!

Until then, seek the the beauty in every day, my friends!

Spring Playlist - Ten Songs For The Season

Shirley Jones

Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald

Barbara Streisand

Frank Sintra

Ella Fitzgerald

Tony Bennett


John Denver

The Beach Boys

Peter, Paul and Mary

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Box Full of Memories

“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility.” 

 ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

My mom loved to bake.  In fact, it's one of my fondest memories of her from my childhood.  Which is probably why her recipe box is one of my favorite possessions.

It's not much to look at, not picture worthy.  A small square metal box covered with what appears to be an early version of contact paper, (the patterns must have been limited), I found it way in the back of a cabinet in the weeks after her death. It had probably been years since she had used it. Towards the end of her life she often made the same recipes over and over again.  Which was fine, it was what she liked and could easily recall from memory which I am sure made things simpler.

I didn't have time to peruse the contents until after we were already settled in Virginia, but looking through those hand-written recipe cards was like taking a little trip down memory lane. There was the divinity that she made every Christmas for many years. Her chocolate pie, which is the best I've ever tasted. She was funny about that one. She would gladly share the recipe, at least, the altered version of it, which is why everyone who tried to replicate it would often sigh in dismay, "I've made that recipe dozens of times, but it never turns out like yours." Thankfully she filled me in on her little secret so that today I'm able to make it just as good as she did! Thanks, mom!

One of the recipes I found brought me to tears. It was for smiley face cookies, and she had even noted that she made them for my tenth birthday, a day I remember well. The smiley face was all the rage in the 70's. There were stickers, and t-shirts, in fact one of my birthday presents that year was a coveted pair of tennis shoes emblazoned with the happy little yellow faces. My desire for them is probably what gave mom the idea to make it the theme for my party. I remember coming home from school that day to find the little plate of cookies surrounded by all my presents. Mom had even drawn two smiley faces in each corner of the recipe card. I will probably never make the cookies themselves, as it's just a simple sugar cookie, but having that card, written in her familiar hand along with the documented memory is priceless!

With technology, recipe cards have fallen out of fashion. Even most of my collection is organized digitally on my computer or on Pinterest. I do have about a dozen cookbooks, but rather than flip through the pages, I will typically type out my favorites and add them to my recipe file on my laptop. But having my mom's recipe box has instilled a desire in me to perhaps keep a small one myself. A digital collection is nice, but it's certainly no replacement for a lovely card, written in that familiar hand, especially if an occasion in which it was served is noted. I was surprised at the memories those little cards stirred, and while I didn't keep all of them, I did keep the ones that were special to me.  Every now and then when I'm missing my mom, I will take them out and look through them again, and I am comforted.

I've made up a number of little recipe cards and shared them here over the years.  Every now and then I'll make a few changes and post them again, as I've done here.  Whether you use these cards, or if you have your own.  Even it's only a simple white index card as most of my mother's were, I would encourage you to take the time to write out some of your families favorite recipes and give a copy to each of your children.  They might make a nice stocking stuffer for the holidays, tied with a pretty ribbon, or a sweet insert inside a birthday card.  They are also nice for sharing at potlucks or when taking food to new mothers.  I've frequently been asked for recipes in such cases, and it would be so easy to simply write them out ahead of time and include them with the meal. In any case, I'm sharing these little cards with you today.  I will make them available as a .pdf file the you can download, hopefully later today, but for now, you can simply save them to your computer and print them out!

Click image to open. Right click and save to your computer. 

I hope you enjoy them!  

Until then,

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Miss Read Novels

Dora Jessie Shafe 1(April 17, 1913 - April 7, 2012), was best known by the pen name Miss Read, an English novelist, by profession a schoolmistress. Her pseudonym was derived from her mother's maiden name. She is best known for two series of novels set in the British countryside – the Fairacre novels and the Thrush Green novels.

I have been familiar with both series for some time, but have, as yet, to join the collective of devoted fans.  I'm not really sure what the hesitation has been, other than the fact that aside from vintage children's literature, I'm not a big fan of fiction. I even came across several titles at our local library and with a little research found that the entire series is available, although a few would have to acquired through inter-library loan.

Then last week as I was searching for a few titles for my homeschool resource blog, A Considered Childhood, I discovered that all but two (one title in each of the respective series), is available for loan through The Internet Archives. Admittedly the loan period is best through your local library as The Archives typically only allows you to keep a title for 14 days, but for some of you, that may be enough. This discovery has lead me to consider perhaps giving the series a go and trying out at least the first one or two titles to see what I think. Also included are two autobiographies as well as other works she has written, including a delightful Christmas book which I have checked out from the library in the past. At any rate, I wanted to pass on the discovery, in case there are others of you who also have yet to dip your toes in.

The Market Square (1966) and The Howards of Caxley (1967) are set in the historical past of Caxley, the nearby market town to Fairacre where Fairacre people go from time to time. Fairacre and Beech Green, a nearby village, are mentioned. The events in these books end before the events of the first Fairacre books start.

The Fairace Novels
Village School – 1955
Village Diary – 1957
Storm in the Village – 1958
Miss Clare Remembers – 1962
Over the Gate – 1964
Village Christmas – 1966
Fairacre Festival – 1968
Emily Davis – 1971
Tyler's Row – 1972
Christmas Mouse – 1973
Farther Afield – 1974
No Holly for Miss Quinn – 1976
Village Affairs – 1977
The White Robin – 1979 ($)
Village Centenary – 1980
Summer at Fairacre – 1984
Mrs. Pringle – 1989
Changes at Fairacre – 1991
Farewell to Fairacre – 1993
A Peaceful Retirement – 1996

Thrush Green Novels
Thrush Green – 1959
Winter in Thrush Green – 1961
News from Thrush Green – 1970
Battles at Thrush Green – 1975
Return to Thrush Green – 1978
Gossip from Thrush Green – 1981
Affairs at Thrush Green – 1983
At Home in Thrush Green – 1985
School at Thrush Green – 1987
Friends at Thrush Green – 1990
Celebrations at Thrush Green – 1992
Year at Thrush Green – 1995
Christmas at Thrush Green – 2009 ($)
The World of Thrush Green – 1988. This book discusses the real place that inspired Thrush Green and has excerpts from all Thrush Green books published as of 1988.

A Fortunate Grandchild – 1982
Times Remembered – 1986
These two were also published in an omnibus edition titled The Early Days.

Others she has written:
Fresh from the Country – 1960. The story of a young country girl who has taken a first teaching job in the big city.
Tales from a Village School – 1994. Short stories.
Miss Read's Country Cooking – 1969.
Mrs Griffin Sends Her Love: and other writings - 2013. ($)
A selection of journalism, published posthumously.
Miss Reed's Christmas Book

Monday, March 25, 2019

Slow and Steady - Daring To Defy The Norm

Apple Orchard Falls Trail , Bedford, Virginia , October, 2018

There is a certain slant of light that has intrigued me since I was a little girl. I have a very vivid memory of sitting on the floor in my bedroom, the window was opened and a warm breeze was blowing in.  I recall the sunlight leaning through almost in want, it seemed, to touch my face. I was reminded of the verse in the gospel following Christ's baptism when the light from heaven fell upon Jesus' face, "This is my beloved son. . . ." God spoke, "In whom I am well pleased."  Even at my young age, I wondered if He was pleased with me, and I recall feeling as though His pleasure surrounded me.

Over the years the light often caught my eye, and I always took time to notice, a habit which distressed my mother greatly. I may have spoken to this before. She referred to it as "dawdling" or "lallygagging", and it wasn't tolerated. And so I learned to move at a quicker pace, but always with a tinge of regret for the loveliness of the world that beckoned me. I never cared for hurry, or for the feeling of being rushed. Even as early as my late elementary years, I was very intentional with my time. I often set my alarm thirty minutes earlier than was needed so that in the final moments before I departed for school, I would have time to read the next chapter in my current book, or listen to a couple of songs from my latest album, or to simply sit on the front steps of our house and observe. Even in our suburban 70's neighborhood, my eyes were naturally drawn to beauty.

But somewhere along the way I succumbed to the expectations and pressures of society. At home, my mother demanded it, at school, my teacher's demanded it, my job demanded it, and once I became a mother myself, multi-tasking became the norm. Time passed at an alarming rate, and with each passing day an angst arose within me which over time led to a season of deep depression. I caved beneath the pressure of all that was expected of me. I was a wife, mother, daughter, employee, school volunteer, friend, and the list goes on. None of which were uncommon roles. My friends bore the same burdens, and spoke of it often.  We were all "just so busy", but what was to be done?  It appeared as though this was simply the norm, and I began to question how I would survive it.  I almost didn't.

It took a bit of a break down for me to realize that I am simply not built to withstand the pressures and expectations of what other's may view as "a normal" life". That's not to say that I could or would want to eliminate any of the roles that I fill. My deepest desire was always to be a wife and mother, and I have been blessed to be both. But when I began to look back upon my life, to reflect upon my natural inclination for dawdling, I realized that it wasn't the roles I filled that overwhelmed me, it was the intersecting demands for my attention that often set me spinning. In short, I am simply not equipped for multi-tasking. I like to do things well, and for me that means focusing on the task at hand until it is completed before I move on to the next thing. That doesn't mean that I finish a project in one sitting. I love to crochet, but if I were to make an afghan I certainly wouldn't ignore other duties until it was finished, too many other, more important things would be left undone. But what it does mean is that I try to schedule my days so that for a certain period of time my focus is solely upon adding a few more rows to it. Some weeks that might be daily, and at other times I might not be able to pick it up again for a few weeks. But I try to live in such a way that whatever task I am engaged in is my singular focus until it is time to move on to the next. Of course there are days, perhaps even seasons, when a bit of multi-tasking is required. But I've learned, the hard way, not to allow this to go on for too long. It is essential to my emotional and physical well being to limit multi-tasking, but also to be attentive to the speed at which I work, as well. I don't like to be rushed or hurried, and as much as I loved my mother, as an adult I've embraced my "lallygagging" and my need to live life at a slower pace. It might sound a little strange, but to be intentional in focusing on one task at a time, and to eliminate hurry and rush, I plan my days in such a way that allows for slow.

I know that I am drawn to beauty, and that nature does and always has re-charged me. I don't want to walk past a planter of beautiful flowers and see a honeybee there and not be able to stop and admire it. Bees are one of my favorite creatures. So to allow for that, I build in time to "stop and smell the roses", if you will. If I know I have a margin of time in route to my destination, then the few minutes I allow myself to take in the beauty that surrounds me isn't stressful, and in doing so, I arrive more peaceful and at rest. I can feel, internally, when I've allowed myself to be rushed for too long. It's that old familiar angst, which immediately signals the need to slow my pace, get out in nature, and narrow my focus. I've even learned to voice that need, and thankfully I have a loving family that understands and supports me. They know what "too much" looks like in my life because my lack of it has, unfortunately, impacted theirs. Insert memories of bad mommy moments, here. But thankfully as they have grown to understand my needs, and I theirs, we've all learned a little about the importance of balance. Slow and steady, it's my favorite speed. That's not to say that I don't care about where I'm going or don't see the big picture, I do. But for me that means leaving early, building margin, breaking down big projects, taking small steps towards big goals, and above all, not allowing myself to be pushed by the frantic, fast pace of this world. My priorities. My pace. It's essential to living a life of authenticity.

Maybe you feel that familiar angst yourself, even if until now you didn't even realize what it was. I didn't understand what I was feeling for years, and it took me a few more to find a way to find the balance. I admit that I am blessed to be a stay at home wife and mother, which makes single-tasking and "smelling the roses" a bit more doable. But whether you are raising a family, working hard for that promotion, or whatever the demands of multi-tasking looks like for you, there are some small steps you can take to slow the pace and narrow your focus, and I'd like to share a few of them with you here.

Start Small
My husband loves to watch television, it's how he unwinds. I on the other hand, could go for a month I think and never turn it on. I need quiet to recharge, and would prefer to read or craft in silence or in nature. Whatever your preference, start by focusing only upon what you are doing in that moment. If like my husband you like to unwind by watching your favorite sit-com, put your phone on the other side of the room, close your lap-top and rather than just catching a funny line here and there or finding after thirty minutes that it was just background noise while you were replying to emails, give it your full attention and really enjoy it. The same if you're like me and you prefer a quiet place to read or enjoy your favorite hobby. Eliminate other distractions and engage fully with what you are doing. Pick one thing and give it your full attention, even if that's only for half an hour. Try to do this every day (maybe a long term goal), or at the very least a couple of times a week to begin.

Break Down Large Projects Into Smaller Chunks
I don't know about you but some tasks are just overwhelming, like cleaning out the basement/attic, or spring cleaning, which many of us are about to tackle. Even birthdays and holidays can become overwhelming and so often the demands all seem to hit at the last minute. It stresses me out, and I'm sure it does you as well. Something I have found that helps me combat this is to break it down into smaller chunks.

I worked as an educator and later in public relations/event planning in my career-girl years, and it was then that I established a routine of planning six weeks out. I did the same thing when I homeschooled my children. I would begin about six weeks to a month ahead writing lesson plans, or planning the next event. I would start by making a list of all that needed to be done, down to the tiniest detail and then prioritized it.That way by the time we started the next semester or my next big event came up, 90% of the work was done and all that was left in the end were the little last minute tweaks and details to polish it off. I've gotten out of this habit in recent years, and even as I am writing I am reminded of the need for this in some areas of my life. My baby is twenty now, so I no longer homeschool, but even the daily tasks of home keeping can become overwhelming and tasks can sit left undone without a plan. Maybe planning six weeks out is too much, at least for day-to-day housekeeping, but definitely not for holidays or larger tasks.

Narrow Your Choices
In the world of social media we have so many "friends", it's impossible to keep up. Notifications are pinging every minute, and everyone and everything is vying for our attention. The important thing is to control it and not allow it control you. Recently I "unfriended" close to 30 people on FB and unfollowed over a hundred on Instagram. How on earth I thought I had the time to devote my attention to that many people and products and pages fathoms me. Just KNOWING that I followed that many people overwhelmed me, and to be honest, I'm still a little uneasy with the numbers. So to ease that burden, I remained friends but changed my settings. 90% of my Facebook and Instagram feed are pages and articles and topics on things that interest me and bring me joy, and only about 10% are personal posts written by friends and relatives. I am still friends with them, but to see their feed and what they are sharing means that I have to intentionally click the link to go to their page, and I'll be honest, I don't do it often.

I had some friends and even family who seemed a little taken back by my actions. They "enjoy seeing what others are up to", or "just scroll through and ignore most of it", but in the end I had to do what was right for me. I don't, honestly, enjoy scrolling through the day to day details of the lives of more than 100 people. Even half of that is too much for me. I do have a few close friends and family that I enjoy staying in touch with and those are the posts that find their way into my feed. Aside from that there are others that I check in on from time to time, but definitely not daily, and that is how I maintain peace.

Even in real life I've narrowed my focus in this season to my family and a few close friends.  Bill and I have reunited and are working on our marriage, and that is my first and biggest priority and I give it my my fullest attention. Kate is about to turn twenty and will be leaving home in the not too distant future, so I'm savoring my time with her. I feel called to build into and build up a few other people in this season, and I aside from that, that is about all I have time for. That has meant hard choices and pulling back from friendships that I had been more actively engaged with, but as with social media, it is necessary. Nothing is more important than my marriage and my daughter right now, and for that, I offer no apologies.

If you find yourself spread too thin in by social media, I would encourage you to do the same thing. You control it, don't let it control you.  Facebook and Instagram can be a good thing, when used properly, and it is good for keeping in contact with faraway family and friends.  But even in that, it is not a requirement.

Recharge At The First Sign of Burn Out
As I mentioned, getting in nature, crafting, reading, listening to music, these are all ways that I like to recharge. And while I admittedly have a much smaller threshold than most for burn-out, I've learned to take time to re-charge at the first sign that I am headed in that direction. Otherwise, well, things can get ugly. It isn't isn't selfish to take care of yourself. Jesus leads us by example in retreating Himself, into a boat, into the garden. We all need time alone to engage in and with the things that bring us joy. Even in this, if possible, leave your phone at home, or in another room. I promise, the world will still be waiting when you return. Sometimes when I go for a walk I will take my phone so that I can listen to music, but I've discovered that far too often I find myself in turmoil when I feel that familiar vibration go off indicating to me that someone or something wants my attention, so recently I've started praying during this time instead, and it's been wonderful!

And finally. . .

Stop Apologizing
I don't mean for that to sound cold hearted or uncaring, but here's what I've discovered.  People, even people who mean well, are going to question you. Any time you dare to defy what society deems "normal", everyone is going to have an argument or an opinion. Some will be offended, probably in part because they wish they were brave enough to make those choices for themselves. Some people may even be hurt, which is a sad but unfortunate outcome that may still be necessary. I would encourage you to remain strong in your convictions and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. In all honesty, you don't owe anyone an explanation for doing what you feel led to do and what is necessary to maintain your peace. Your true friends may not like it, but they will understand and support your decisions, and anyone who doesn't, well, probably isn't a very good friend, if at all. If all you have to give right now is to your marriage and your family, they are your God-given FIRST priority, and everything and everyone outside of that is discretional. Right now I feel led by the Holy Spirit to build up and into one of my daughter's friends, and I am being faithful to that prompting. We also recently began attending a new church and I'm being intentional about building community. With that AND rebuilding my marriage and investing in my daughter, I can easily become wiped out. It's been hard, I've been questioned, and I know that there are some who don't understand, but I'm OK with that. A year ago Bill and I were living separate lives and things were different. I had more time to invest in friendships, and it was wonderful. Today my marriage is better than it has ever been and we are healing and growing closer. and that is wonderful, but I don't have it in me right now for both.

Just like the cycles of nature, our lives are "seasonal", too. The Holy Spirit often leads us into change, narrows our focus, instructs us to pull back, and some times, to build in. And the best way I have found to hear His voice and heed His prompting, is by allowing time for quiet. That's pretty counter-cultural by nature because it means single-tasking (making Him our singular focus), and moving at a slower pace. At least, that's the only way it works for me. I'm wired for this and I think more sensitive than most, and yet it is still a struggle for me to find time for quiet. There's a reason God instructed us to, "Be still, and know". You don't get the latter, without the former. Slow and steady, it's still progress, and it brings me peace!

Until then,