Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Beauty of Lent

"Once a year, on a Wednesday, we mix ashes with oil. We light candles and confess to one another and to God that we have sinned, by what we have done and what we have left undone. We tell the truth. Then we smear the ashes on our foreheads and together acknowledge the single reality upon which every catholic and protestant, believer and atheist, scientist and mystic can agree;

"Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."

It's the only thing we know for use. We will die.

"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust."

But a long time ago a promise was made. A prophet named Isaiah said a messenger would come to proclaim good news to the poor and brokenhearted. To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

"Those who once repented in ashes will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the  display of His splendor." - Isaiah 61:3

We could not become like God, so He became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed Jesus to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried His Son in the ground, He rose."

- Rachel Held Evans

How I Observe Ash Wednesday
This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. I've observed this day and season for a number of years now, but not being Catholic, it looks a little different for me. As a protestant I believe that because of the blood of Christ, I have direct access to God through prayer, thus eliminating the need for a priest. That being said, I certainly respect differing beliefs, and I would love it if one day I was able to actually attend mass on Ash Wednesday and receive the ashes, but to be honest, aside from my own humble observance I have little knowledge of whether that would even be possible. But as the observance of the Year of the Lord is something I hold dear, I've conducted my own simple service in the privacy of my home for several years now.

While palms are traditionally burned to form the ashes for Ash Wednesday, I am not even sure where to find palms? In their absence, I traditionally have kept a bit of greenery from the previous Christmas season to form mine. It seems fitting to me as Christmas is the observance of Christ's birth, to use them to make the ashes in observance of the forty days leading up to His crucifixion and resurrection.

This year I was little limited as to how to go about burning the greenery. In our downsizing we are currently living in an apartment and our landlord doesn't allow open flames on the property. But after a some contemplation, I decided the little that I needed to burn wouldn't pose a threat, though I was still careful. I just used a tin can that I'd set aside and broke off some twigs and dropped in the match. It made a pretty good flame and looked like it was burning well. I allowed it to cool for awhile and then poured it out into a bowl, but was disappointed to discover that not much of it had burned and there were a lot of green needles mixed in with the burned pieces. That made getting to the pure ash a little difficult, but thankfully I managed to collect enough to mix with a few drops of olive oil to make a paste.

It is likewise tradition to draw the sign of the cross on your forehead, but as I have bangs I can never see it, and so I usually place it on my hand instead. It's still visible to others if I happen to be out, but more importantly, to me. I find the reminder helps to keep me more focused on the meaning and symbolism of the day. I give something up every year, though in recent years I haven't discussed it much it and keep it more personal. When the girls were young they participated with me and we would always talk through what we were giving up as they often needed guidance. But now that it's just me these observances have become more personal.

If you'v never observed Ash Wednesday and you are interested you can learn more here.  If you are protestant, as I am, and your church does not observe Ash Wednesday, you can easily create your own service as I have. I do a little differently every year, and this year was probably the simplest observance I've conducted yet as the lack of being able to burn the ashes presented a bit of a challenge. Typically I have a large amount of ashes that I keep in a pretty cut glass jar and sit out as a reminded thoughout the season. But for some reason I can't seem to put my hands on the little jar, and since the burn was a bit of a fail anyway, that hasn't happened. I may try again as the season of Lent lasts for 40 days, and I do still have some greenery, but I'll have to figure out how to get it to burn more evenly and that might make a larger flame and I need be discreet.

I'll be sharing more about the season of Lent over the next few weeks, so if you're interested I hope you'll follow along!

Friday, February 21, 2020

What's Making Me Happy Right Now!

I am a sucker for signing up to receive emails, and to be honest I don't read half of them. Typically I will see a free resource that I just have to have which almost always requires a subscription, and the next thing I know my inbox is filled with inspiring articles and resources that I do-not-have-time-to-read! I am sure they are wonderful, but alas, there are not enough hours in the day! Oh what I wouldn't give for "want my wonderful free resource?, just click here, no subscription required! This is all spurred on, of course, by the experts and their ideas about the acceptable number of subscribers needed to be considered successful. Personally, I'm glad I'm choosing to ignore them. For now, if I offer something for free, you only get what you choose to download! I hope I never feel forced to succumb! :)

That being said, Gretchen Rubin has an email/newsletter, I'm not sure what they are called, but of the hundred or more I seem inclined to wade through, hers is one that LOVE and that I do take time to read. It's called 5 Things Making Me Happy This Week, and if you are a sucker like me, you can subscribe here. Reading her offerings typically inspires me to think back through my week to all the things I encountered that make me happy as well, and so I've decided (at least for today, I'm not sure this will become a regular thing), to share my ** HAPPY THINGS ** as well, in no particular order.!

In the picture above, my pretty stash of yarn in all my favorite colors makes me happy just looking at it! I've got plans for a couple of projects coming up soon, so I'll be sure to share pics as I progress!
I made a lot of progress on my book! I am still in the research stage, but I was able to. devote several days to it this week, even though that was because I wasn't feeling well. I have a kidney stone that rears its ugly head now and then, but, thankfully aided by my arsenal of hydrangea root, lemon water and ACV, it has gone back into hiding! During those lovely days of leisure, I played around with adding some color to my proposed cover and I am REALLY liking the way it looks, especially since it kind of ties it to my blog! What do you think?
And speaking of research. I picked this little gem up from the library last week. Since I am writing a book about creating and making memories, I thought  it would be a good idea if I had a little better understanding of how they are formed! This has been quite insightful and I am enjoying every minute of it! Highly recommend!

Also, though I don't have any pictures, yet, I put together a little planner this week. Very simple and srtaight forward, not too overwhelming but that I am hoping will also help me keep up with things a little better.

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! "

I also came across a file I had downloaded some time ago, Kelsey Van Kirk's publication, Uncovering Your Core Values. I am linking to the podcast, but unfortunately the workbook that is linked appears to no longer be available. So, if its something that interests you then maybe contact Kelsey directly to see if there is still a way to get it. Anyway, thankfully I did download it some time ago but I am just now getting around to working through it. I'm planning to write a more detailed post some time next week discussing this, but for now I discovered that my core values are.

- Spirituality
- Childlike Faith
- Living Intentionally
- Order
- Knowledge
- Creativity
- Exploration

Like I said, I'll unpack that a little more in another post, but it was very though provoking and an insightful exercise and if you can find something similar, I highly recommend it!

And finally to wrap this up, I signed up for a free one week trial of the Boomerang channel through Amazon Prime and I've been enjoying watching old episodes of The Flinstones and The Jetsons over lunch this week. I don't think I'll keep, though. It's only $5.99 a month, but my free three month trial of Spotify Premium is nearing its end, as well as Kindle Unlimited. I don't think I'll continue with Kindle Unlimited, at least for now. I like the idea, but lets be honest, I haven't read half the books I paid for and downloaded, why do I need unlimited???? I do LOVE Spotify premium, so I'm keeping that, and I already subscribe to the PBS channel through Prime and that's a no-brainer. I think I've got plenty to keep me occupied!  

So what about you, what's making you happy this week?  Are you a sucker for email subscriptions like me?  And what services do you think are worth paying for and don't want to live without? I'm almost afraid to ask . . . .

Until then, 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sentimental Sunday - Old Country Kitchen

Some of my fondest memories from childhood took place in a kitchen. Sadly, I don't have pictures of either of my grandmother's kitchens, and while neither of them looked anywhere near as polished and nice as the images shown below, there are elements in each of them that conjure fond memories.

This first image reminds me more of my paternal grandmother's kitchen, though it lacks the slanting floor, a problem that I now realize was likely due to a crumbling foundation. My grandparents never seemed poor to me, but looking back now, I suppose they were. But that never stopped my grandmother from making things lovely, and in spite of their lack, everything was always clean and welcoming.
The image below reminds me more of my maternal grandmother's, though again, it was never this modern or pristine. It's the tall white cabinets that caught my eye, though hers were wood and these appear a bit more modern. What I really noticed is how tall they appear. And while childhood memories can often be deceiving, what I seem to remember was that they stretched high up on the wall and I often wondered how she ever got to anything that was stored on the upper shelves. Perhaps they were not as tall as I recall in my memory. She didn't have a fancy bar like the one shown in the picture, but there was a small table in the corner where my grandfather took his breakfast every morning, and if my memory serves me correctly it was one of those vintage formica tables that were so popular in the 50's. My parents had something similar. There was a larger table in the dining room that we gathered around every holiday. I can still see her traditional jello salad and dressing, which my mother insisted always had too much sage, adorning the table.
I treasure these memories, not only of the places, but more importantly the people who occupied them. Of the wonderful aroma of freshly baked gingerbread that greeted me often on trips to see my paternal grandmother, and of bacon frying in the skillet for my grandpa's breakfast when we went to visit my mom's side of the family. This poems depict some of those sentiments, and my mind was flooded with them the moment I read it.

The moment that you went inside,
Some fragrance came to greet you there,
New applesauce with cinnamon,
The scent of fresh bread on the air;

Johnnycake or gingerbread,
Mincemeat's simmering spicy smell,
And from the cellar's fragrant bins,
Apple breath in dark stairwell;

Checkerberry, balsams mint,
Baking beans in earthen pot,
Molasses, candy, lavender
Sadironed linens sweetly hot;

Hint of sage or caraway,
A potluck supper's savory steam,
Corn popping over glowing coals,
And birchwood smell, sweet as a dream.

- Ruth B. Field

Just for fun, I came across a few books at the Internet Archives that reflect upon the memories we hold of our grandmothers. I'm sure flipping through the pages will evoke memories for you as well.

All The Good Habits I Learned From Grandma
by Laurel Seilor Brunvoll

Grandmother's Are To Love
by Lois Wyse

The Wonderful World of Grandmother's

And finally, I want to direct you to these cookbooks by Jane Watson Hopping.  Her books have been among my favorites over the years, both for their recipes and for the lovely memoirs and poems that are scattered throughout. If you aren't familiar with her works, then I encourage to borrow a volume from the archives and sit back and enjoy! There are two other books in the series, which are actually my favorites, and while I thought I had them in my collection, I can't seem to put my finger on them at the moment. But if you like the ones I've listed and want to try track the other two titles down, they are The Pioneer Lady's Country Christmas, and The Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook, and if I do happen to come across them again, I'll be sure to let you know.

The Pioneer Lady's Kitchen
by Jane Watson Hopping
A Seasonal Treasury of Time Honored American Recipes

The Country Mother's Cookbook
A Celebration of Motherhood and Old Fashioned Cooking

The Lazy Days of Summer Cookbook
A Celebration of Summer's Bounty
by Jane Watson Hopping

The Many Blessings Cookbook
A Celebration of Harvest, Home and Country Cooking
by Jane Watson Hopping

Friday, February 14, 2020

Seasonal Observation Calendars - Spring 2020

Today I wanted to share another resource that you could use along side the Season Keeper which will be available to download next Tuesday, February 18.

In all of our years of homeschooling, nature study was by far one of our favorite subjects. Since then I've keep various nature journals of my own, but nothing as involved as in earlier years. A few years ago I developed the format I sharing here with your today, though admittedly, I've failed to use it as much as I would have liked, I'm going to **try** to remember to be more intentional about documenting the things I see in nature now that we are about to turn the corner and head into spring.

The idea is to document your sightings by printing (though it would have to be rather small), or sketching a small picture into each square on the coinciding day. Don't worry if you aren't artistically inclined, no one has to see this but you, so please don't let that deter you! The calendar portion is not numbered so that you could easily use these year after year which is part of what makes keeping such a record so fun! Comparing your journal to previous years and noting if spring was early or late to arrive, when you first spotted a robin, the date of the last snowfall, are all intriguing, at least it is for me! Since the squares are small it keeps things from being too involved and time consuming, but in case you do want to include a little more detail, I've included a notes section at the bottom for just that purpose!

If you've never kept a nature journal there are oodles of ideas on the internet, just google "keeping a nature journal", but you might want to pour yourself a cup of coffee first, because it could keep you intrigued for hours. These forms are just one of many and you may find something more to your liking and that is fine, but since I made them up for myself, I decided to share! Just click the links below for a closer look and to download your own copy!

~ Enjoy

Thursday, February 13, 2020

What We Keep - It Came To Me In A Dream

I may be getting a little ahead of myself here, but honestly this is just how my mind words, I often work with the end in mind, and when things such as what I am about to share with you happen, you sit up and take notice, at least, I do!

I mentioned in a few previous posts that I am writing a book, and when I say I am writing a book, I mean I eat, sleep and breathe every aspect of this process. True to my nature (since childhood), I take inspiration from almost everything. But with that, it  has made narrowing down the topics I want to cover a bit challenging. I mean, this is a book, not an encyclopedia! So now I'm already thinking that there might need to be a second book, maybe even more. But now I'm really getting ahead of myself.

As I said, my mind is literally filled with thoughts of this book, almost 24/7, and that includes my dreams. And last night. . . I had one. I dreamed that my book had been picked up by a large publishing house, and just like Jo in Little Women, a package arrived in the mail with the first copy, it was even wrapped in brown paper, but let a girl dream, ok? And as you might have guessed, when I opened it up, this was what I dreamed the cover looked like. The other images you see on the side were on the inside of the front and back cover, and in my dream I just swooned and cried! So you can bet that at 5:30 a.m. this morning, this is what I was busy creating. I even had to hunt down the font I used for the title because nothing I had in my collection was close enough to what I dreamed.

The funny thing is, I don't even want my book to be picked up by a publisher. That was never my goal. But this isn't wasted on me, either. I'm a firm believer in the Holy Spirit speaking to us in our dreams, it happened throughout the bible. And since I've felt inspired beyond my own aspirations from the beginning , I can't deny the reason for this happening. If I was already excited about writing this, I think that has now doubled! Because of the way my mind is wired I almost needed to see the end result in order to know how to proceed. I don't know if other writers work that way, but this has been the process for me. In a way, though the actual work isn't completed, being able to see this is helping me understand how the rest of it will come together. It's brought clarity that I didn't know until now was lacking. Up to now it's been a bit scattered and I was worried that in the end I wouldn't know how to make it all fit, and the truth is, it may NOT all fit, which is fine, because as I mentioned previously, now I'm thinking I've got more than one book in me!

Living in your calling is such a beautiful thing, because when the Lord instills a gift in you, He likewise will guide you in that gifting if only you take the time to listen. I'm so grateful for this opportunity, and to be able to leave this for my children and their children to come. It's the reason I do what I do. ❤︎

Until then,

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Establishing A Restoring Rhythm

"Because how we spend our days is, of course,  how we spend our lives."


During the years when we were homeschooling, keeping a routine was pretty simple. I had every hour and minute of our day mapped out and carefully planned, including quiet time for myself every morning and for everyone in the afternoon. Meals were prepared, the house got cleaned and the laundry was washed, dried and put away. Looking back I'm not even sure how I managed, but oddly enough during the busiest years of my life, I was the most organized.

But since Kate finished school, my days have lacked structure.  At first, it didn't bother me that much, in fact, it seemed silly to think that they should. After all, I really don't have that much to keep up with anymore. I've continued on, doing all the things I'd always done, albeit haphazardly, but in the end its left me feeling overwhelmed. I've written on this topic a couple of times now, as I've been struggling with this for awhile. And yet for all of my efforts I still haven't come up with a plan that sticks. I bought a planner but ended up not liking the layout. So then I did what I always did when we homeschooled and made my own, but as I said, with so little to manage it seemed silly to devote an entire planner to the two or three things that need to be completed each day. I could accomplish that with post it notes!, I thought, and for awhile I did resort to 3x5 cards, but that didn't work, either. And yet, without a system in place those 2-3 things that seemed so easy to manage quickly becomes four or five which leads to two or three of them not getting done. Can you see my dilemma? Clearly something has to give!

Even as we are downsizing and transitioning to taking our life out on the road, I know that I am going  to need some semblance of structure in order for things to run smoothly. It really doesn't matter "where" I live, the important thing for me is to be intentional with my time, rather than reactive. We've downsized several times on this journey already from a large house, to a smaller house and now to an even smaller apartment. And if there's one thing I've learned its the smaller the space, the easier it is to quickly become cluttered. Every thing needs a place, and to maintain that, every task must be planned and completed. Clean sheets, laundry, meals, they are all important, as is taking time for doing things that I enjoy such as writing and crafting, and none of this is changed by the size of the space in we live. In fact, living on the road and traveling all over this beautiful country, I am sure that I'm going to want to allow for even more spontaneity, and that is why establishing routines is so important. Routines are a way of organizing your time so that you can be more spontaneous, the more organized you are, the more spontaneous you can be. It sounds backwards, but I'm discovering that its really not.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that it be rigid, either. We're talking structure here, a scaffolding that allows for plenty of room to breathe, not metal bars that restrain and hinder. Simply put, I need a sense of knowing what needs to be done in a given day, and then to do it, which will then make room for the things that I truly enjoy. I think that by having a routine in place and certain tasks assigned to certain days I will be less likely to procrastinate, and I do tend to procrastinate at times. Even at my age, I'm like a child that wants to eat my dessert first! By following an established routine, hopefully I won't try to negotiate with myself and waste precious time trying to decide whether to do it now or do it later. If I have a routine and I know it's important then it gets done, end of argument.

Something else that I've discovered, or perhaps I'm now willing to admit is that its becoming harder for me to keep up with things. In addition to everything else, I'm also writing a book, so my mind is filled with a LOT of information! But with a routine and having things mapped out I can eliminate some of that brain clutter because the work will already be done for me, simply open my planner, turn to the day, move from one thing to the next and check it off. I did this for years when we homeschooled, and as I said at the beginning of this post, my days were smoother and more productive because I knew exactly what we were dedicating our time to. Of course, this doesn't mean that everything will be perfect or that there will never be interruptions, but at least by thinking through my days it will be easier to see where I can re-arrange things when the unexpected crops up. Routine restores rhythm!
So where to begin? Well, as you might imagine I've been doing a lot of reading and research on the subject and I've come across some really good questions to help me get started.

1. Know Yourself
Simply put, its important to know if you're a morning person or a night person, and I am definitely a morning person! So much so that I typically rise two to three hours before anyone else, but with that it also means that whatever I choose to do in that time, needs to be pretty self contained and on the quieter side. I'm usually pretty energetic until around noon to 2:00 p.m., but after that my energy starts to fade quickly.

★ 2. Set the Day Up The Night Before
Even though I've tried before with little success, my goal is to put together a simple planner with specific tasks assigned to each day. (I'll be sharing pictures soon!). But I know that inevitably other things are going to creep in, and that's why I think taking a few minutes to review my planner either at the end of the day or maybe an hour before bed will help. In the past I've made plans for each day, but then once everything was checked off I forgot about it. Ok, lets be honest, sometimes I even forgot about and never checked a thing off! A tool is only good if you use it, right?  So first, using and then reviewing the plan at the end of the day sounds good. So often what happens is Bill might need my help with something the next day, I am obviously willing, but give little thought to the tasks that were scheduled or how and when they will get done. Once I got a phone call while I was out running errands to reschedule an appointment for the next and because I didn't write it down, I missed it and ended up having to wait several more weeks for another. Yes, it's high time I established the habit of writing things down.

I am also prone to jumping on my phone or computer first thing every morning, initially to check the time, or because my devotional is on my bible app, but then a notification comes through and I get distracted. So that has me re-thinking my quiet time, or sacred start, as I prefer to call it, and eliminating the need for electronics. I'm thinking if I set up a pretty spot  the night before it will be more eliminate the need for my phone!

★ 3. Be Flexible!
I'll admit, I struggle in this area, primarily because I honestly think I have adult onset ADD, but then don't we all in this day and age? What I do know is that flexibility often leads to distraction and things not getting done. But I **think** that's because without a system in place, I've been relying solely on my brain to keep up with everything. If I have things written down and something comes up then hopefully it will be easier to manage by just moving them to a different day or time. This is another example of how structure allows for flexibility.

★ 4. Don't Beat Yourself Up
And I really need to heed this! Establishing new habits, routines and rhythms takes time, and in the beginning, especially, it's not going to be easy.That very thought is often what trips me up because my goal IS to make things easier, but I need to remember that it's all trial and error. I should know this after all my 20+ years of homeschooling as there was seldom a day that went EXACTLY as I had planned it on paper. Some days everything got derailed, and that will happen again and it's ok. It will take time while to figure out how well things translate from paper to real life, and it might mean thatt some things will need to be revised. In fact, I'm sure of it. But hopefully by sticking close to the sequence, routine will eventually flow into rhythm and become second nature. That's the goal, anyway!

This week I'm going to be working on setting up a simple planner. I've decided against spending hours creating forms and printing things that may not function as I thought they would and wasting all of that time, not to mention the paper and ink! My initial idea is just pencil and paper, though I will have dividers and I'll probably make a little effort to make a pretty cover with some scrapbook paper. Once I find a plan that works (**fingers crossed**), then I'll think towards being more creative. I'm also going to be working through what I want my morning and evening routines to look like, and I'll be sharing them as well.

If you struggle with routines and rhythms as I do, then I hope you'll be encouraged and feel free to offer you ideas, suggestions and what have worked for you!

Until then,

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Season Keeper Monthly Calendars for Spring 2020
UPDATED! - Includes Two Page Spread!

It's hard for me to believe that we are nearing the second quarter of the year, and that means that next week I will releasing my SPRING SEASON KEEPER! I plan to have it available for download on Tuesday, February 18, so if you've enjoyed using them in the past, be sure to keep an eye out for it! For those of you who may be new to my season keepers and how I plan my year, let me give you a brief summary.

I have loved savoring and celebrating the beauty of each season for as long as I can remember. Even growing up in Texas, where the seasons were less consistent, I was still acutely attuned to the rhythms of nature and the changes that time would bring. Then, after moving to Virginia twenty plus years ago now, and experiencing a proper autumn and winter, my desire to intentionally plan for and observe the seasons grew even deeper. As such, I have developed four quarterly planners that I have lovingly dubbed "Season Keepers". I previously released copies for Autumn and Winter 2019,and  though those links are no longer active, you can visit this post to give you more of an idea of what you'll find inside each volume.

I break down my year three seasons at a time, but unlike the traditional January - December rhythm,  each quarter begins in the month in which the seasonal solstice or equinox occurs. That being said, each planner covers the following months.

★ WINTER - December, January, February - Release Date November 17, 2020

★ SPRING - March, April, May - Release Date February 18, 2020

★ SUMMER - June, July, August. - Release Date May 19, 2020

★ AUTUMN - September, October, November - Release Date - August 18, 2020

I love these planners and celebrating the seasons so much, that I am currently in the research and outlining phase of writing my first book, What We Keep: Making Time For The Things That Truly Matter. Part guide, part workbook, What We Keep will include many of the same elements of my season keepers, but will expand on that idea to include recipes, craft ideas and tutorials as well as many lovely quotes and passages from some of my favorite books, all to create something that I think will be truly beautiful. It's a work of love that I am actually writing primarily for my children and the generations to come. My children have many memories of celebrating these special days from their own childhood, and I want them to be able to easily pass on those traditions and create new memories with their children and grandchildren, as well. But none of this would be possible were it not for the warm reception and encouragement I've received from my readers over the years as I have shared these ideas and made my offerings free for the sharing. And that is why, I am making it available to the public, as well. The book will include all four seasons in one volume, and as I said, while many of the elements will be the same, I will be making changes and improvements that will make them slightly different, and I think even better. And while the book will not be offered for free, I do plan to continue to create the free version of the quarterly planners, as well as expand upon my library of supplemental free resources.  And that being said . . . .

Today I want to offer these one page calendars for the upcoming spring quarter covering March, April and May. I think these will be a lovely addition to the spring season keeper, and I'll be showing you how I use my copies in an upcoming post.I'm also toying with the idea of creating a two-page spread, with my only hesitation being time. I would want to have it available prior to the release of the season keeper next Tuesday, and I just don't know if I can squeeze it in. BUT, never say never, so if that's something that interests you as well, keep your eyes open and I'll let you know if I'm able to make it happen, and I will definitely have them available as a supplement for the summer, autumn and winter editions. UPDATE: SEE BELOW! And so without further delay, here are the links for each calendar in the spring quarter. I do hope you will enjoy them, and if you download and use them, please do let me know! I love to hear how others are creatively using these resources!

As it turned out, I found an old two-page calendar design that only required a little tweaking to update it!  So if you would like a two page spread, which gives you a little more room for writing, just click on the links below!

Taking Control Of Your Time

"Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it,
 but you can spend it.  And once you've lost it, you can never get it back."

- Unknown

As time, or rather, time management seems to be on my mind a lot recently, I thought I would share this passage from a wonderful little book that I came across on the Internet Archives recently.  This is probably some of the best advice I've come across for managing your time, especially if you are sensitive (as I am) to being rushed and weighed down by too many responsibilities. I especially like #2 and I've been putting that into practice recently. It really is amazing how many things really can wait!

1. Remember whose in charge. Time is something you manage, not something that manages you. Learn to think through each commitment. Buy yourself time to respond before you commit, get into the habit of responding with, "Can I think about it and let you know tomorrow?"

2. Everything isn't urgent, it can't be! Instead of thinking, "I have to get this done right now!", ask yourself what would happen if you put it off. Ta-da! Life goes on! Not everything is urgent, and everything can't take first place on the to-do list. Prioritize!

3. Schedule in reverse. Put the real priorities on the calendar first - family dinner,  or date night. Then schedule everything else around the best things!

4. Drop one thing from your schedule! You might disappoint someone, but that's ok. Spending just two less days a month committed to outside events and engagements frees out to spend more time at home with your family. Never apologize for putting them first!

5. Be rather than do. Try it for an evening. Think, pray, relax in a comfy chair.

6. Get a family member or friend's perspective. Ask someone close to you to comment on how you're using your time and what seems to be robbing you of it.

7. Be honest about your limitations. Do you find yourself saying yes to projects and hoping that the week will suddenly hold the extra hours you'd need to complete it? You can't manufacture time.

8. Make a list of your commitments, and be sure to include time spent with family and down time for yourself. Keep the list somewhere you will see it. Review it before agreeing to add anything else.

Adapted from Lists to Live By For Everything That Matters

Monday, February 10, 2020

Now - A Daybook

Some of the greenery I put out mid-December, still going strong, 
except in the kitchen where it gets more sunlight.

"Forever is composed of nows."


It's early, around 5:30.  I'm always the first to awake and seldom sleep past five or maybe a half hour later. Every now and then I can stretch it to six, and some days it's even earlier.  It's not an uncommon thing for me to wake around four a.m., once or often twice a week. I don't mind though, I love the quiet of the house this time of day, before the rush of all that must be done sets in.  

Winter has been a bit disappointing this year, though to keep my stress levels to a minimum (I tend to fuss about things over which I have no control), I'm trying to find the bright side. The warmer weather has afforded us many days to be able to work outdoors on the van in comfort, and at this point, I'm now looking forward to spring.  If it continues I'll most likely resume my morning walks soon.

I haven't done a lot of baking recently, as I'm trying to recover from a round of antibiotics that has left my body in a fight for balance. I've struggled with candida from time to time before, but until recently was always able to get it back under control. But being on three different antibiotics over the course of three weeks for an abscessed tooth and the aftermath of such has proven challenging. So I'm cutting back on sugar, taking a pro-biotic and I've added several fermented foods to my diet. Here's hoping I'll be feeling better soon. It's taken a toll.

I noticed yesterday that the greenery I had put up in the kitchen is finally starting to look a little worse for ware. Its amazing to me how long pine will last, even without water. But once it is done, it weathers quickly. I plan to take it down tomorrow, which is always a mess with pine needles falling everywhere. But the beauty it lends to the holiday season and the early days of winter is worth it

Today Kate and I are going to sort through some boxes we brought home from storage. We need to take pictures and get a few more things posted on the Facebook yard sale sites we belong to. One wall of our bedroom looks rather like a second hand store right now, and I guess in some ways, it is. I don't like all the clutter, but it's a necessary evil right now as we work on downsizing and preparing for life on the road. I've had to lower my housekeeping standards a bit, but I don't know that it hasn't been good for this OCD girl.

I got a good start on my book last week. I did some research on what genre it will fit in to, which appears to be Guide / Self Help. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but its an important thing to know.  I learned that such books are typically 40,000 - 50,000 words in length, and that on average most writers attempt to write 500-1000 words a day. Unless you are Stephen King, who is said to average 2,000. Right now I'm in the research stage, which I discovered is favored by many writers, and so many of them warned to be careful not to get stuck there and never actually write. I can understand why. I used to feel the same way about homeschooling. Planning it all out was my favorite part, and while I loved living it out as well, it never turned out the same in real life as it did on paper. Probably due to the wills of little humans getting involved. :) It will be interesting to see how that translates in writing a book.

I also made some changes here at the blog, as by now you've probably noticed. I shared a little about that in this post, but I'll include a brief re-cap here. I've returned to my beloved header, which I seem prone to always do, and have vowed NEVER to even consider changing it again. I just love it, and as green and red are my favorite colors, as well as black though that is less prominent here, this is what I'm sticking with. I think it is important as a writer/blogger to be inspired by your setting, both in your home and in the spaces you create online. A pleasing layout draws me in, and every time I change it I spend more time tweaking it than actually writing. In time I always grow frustrated with the changes, throw it all out and go back to the original design, as was the case last week. That has happened, I digress, far too often and it makes things confusing for everyone. So my apologies, I hope you like the new (old) look, because it's going to be around for awhile! 

I finished Poldark and I'm now in viewer's remorse. I keep scrolling though possibilities, but in the end what I really want is for the story to continue on. There are several books left and storylines to be explored, but as the focus was on the younger generation coming of age, I suppose aging Ross, Demelza and the other adult characters would have proven too much. They could, perhaps, have followed the lead of The Crown and simply hired older actors, but I wouldn't have liked that, either.

I've been watching Sanditon and I am really enjoying it, and my husband and I are watching the new Star Trek installment, Picard, and I like it, as well. But I still hope to find something that captures me as Poldark did, and I'm sure I'll eventually come on to something. I received a number of suggestions from friends when I mourned having completed the last episode on IG. To be honest, writing has taken up so much of my time of late, I'm not sure that not being swept up in multiple seasons of another show isn't a good thing.

And with that, I'll close. Its time to pull myself from this couch and go start tending to those boxes in the bedroom that I mentioned. I hope your week is off to a great start, friend!

Until then,


Sunday, February 9, 2020

In Praise of Little Things

As winter is refusing to behave properly this year, I'm left to dig up more suitable
images from years past. Winter I love you, please do pay us a visit!

Little words are the sweetest to hear;
Little charities fly farthest, and stay longest on the wing;
Little lakes are the stillest;
Little hearts are the fullest,
and little farms are the best tilled.
Little books are read the most,
and little songs the dearest loved.
And when Nature would make anything especially rare and beautiful,
she makes it little; little pearls, little diamonds, little dews.
The Sermon on the Mount is little,
but the last dedication discourse was an hour long.
Life is made up of littles;
death is what remains of them all.
Day is made up of little beams,
and night is glorious with little stars.

~ Author Unknown

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Little History On The Season Of Lent

With the Lenten season approaching on February 26 (Ash Wednesday), I will be sharing some passages, traditions and resources for observing this holy season. I pray you will be encouraged and blessed by the offering.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent lasts for forty days, in imitation of Christ's self imposed exile in the desert at the beginning of His mission. During this time the faithful are expected to give up vices or pleasurable habits, pray and attend mass more frequently, and meditate on the state of their souls. In medieval times people donned sackcloth, smeared their faces with ash and water, flogged themselves and foreswore most food and drink during the Lenten observance. In spite of its severe customs, Lent is a hopeful time. The word comes from the Middle Earth word, lengten or "lengthen", a reference to the fact that the days grow mercifully longer during this time.

Of course, people being people, all of this Lenten-self sacrifice had to be rewarded before it even began. Throughout Europe for three days before the beginning of Lent, businesses closed, streets were blocked off and everyone headed for church, where they went to confession. Afterwards, kegs were tapped, bottles drained, and sweet meats and other foods, soon to be forbidden, were consumed in a bout of wild merrymaking.

Eventually these pre-Lenten revels became concentrated into the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, called Pancake Day, after the sweet pancakes traditionally eaten during the party. In Medieval France where the day was known as mardi gras, or Fat Tuesday, a vast carnival was celebrated during which an enormous ox was paraded through the streets of Paris, surrounded by common folk dressed blasphemously as priests and nuns. The people banged drums and kettles in an unconscious imitation of a Roman triumphal parade. Years later in France's former debauched colony of New Orleans, the party known as Mardi Gras became America's most famous orgy, and a raucous song in the depths of winter. Eventually, however, in New Orleans as in all christian lands, Lent arrives with the grey dawn of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is calculated backwards forty days from Easter. It is so named because on that day Catholics stand before the church alter and receive on their foreheads a smeared cross of ash from the priest. along with an admonition, that in some churches is still whispered in Latin.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es
et in pulverem reverteris.

(Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust though shalt return.)

The ashes come from a very specific source. On Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, members of the congregation hold palm fronds, in imitation of the crowds who welcomed Christ into Jerusalem. Afterwards the palms are ceremoniously burned, their ashes collected and stored. They reappear the following year on Ash Wednesday, to be daubed on the foreheads of the faithful. The symbolism of Ash Wednesday's is circular, striking and sublime. A year after the Savior's symbolic entrance into the city, the very ashes of the banners once held forth to honor him now prepare the faithful for the season of His crucifixion. 

- from The Dance of Time
by Michael Judge

Before closing I also wanted to bring a few things to your attention.

One, yes, that's my original header now prominent once again. I think I'll slap my hand if I ever venture away from it as I always miss it after making any changes and return to it again and again. I do miss the Canadian geese in my previous header, and I still hope to find a way to incorporate them somewhere, though not in the header. Still, where my father's love was for geese, my husband loves birds and I've learned a great deal about them over the years as a result. The tree with its nest and the two little birds have long been an element of my blog header, including the years when it was known as Life in the Little Nest and chronicled our home school adventures. So to have them remain is a little testament to the memories of the past mixed lovingly with the present and the future. It's a lovely fit.

Second, I've reworked the menu to make things easier for you to find by adding categories, such as The Liturgical Year, and sub-categories such as Advent. The major categories are still linked just below the header, but I've broken things down even further in the menu that you'll find in the left side bar. Clicking on each entry will take you to all the posts I've written on that topic. Last night I went through and eliminated some of the tags I had created because there were too many and it complicated things. I will be reviewing these over the next week or two to make sure it all works as it should, but in the mean time if you come across any problems, please let me know.

And finally, I noticed as I was going through my posts last night that some of the formatting is amiss, which is related more to the color of the text than to the content itself. That being said, you'll still be able to access the information, just be aware that in some posts the text is in several different colors. This is all due to the silly idea I had late last year to bring back the 70's and earth tones instead of staying true to my beloved greens and reds!!!! NEVER AGAIN!  I tried to fix the text in a few of the posts, but for reasons I have yet to discover the formatting still isn't right. Its probably some silly hex code somewhere that is insisting upon rust instead of red! My OCD self, of course, won't abide it, but scrolling through code takes time, so please bear with me! My hope it it bothers you less than it does me!

Until then, have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Something Greater Than Ourselves

Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University - October, 2019

Early last year I read Emily P. Freeman's book, Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living In A Fast Moving World. In it she discusses the idea of small, which, upon querying her readers, conjured some negative responses.  Many of us, at times myself included, associate small with less. Some of the responses she received were;

Being misunderstood.
Being wrong.
Being corrected.
Being ignored.
Church people (it's it ok if I say, I can relate!)

She goes on to explain;

"When we think of small, most people consider the kind that comes as a result of humiliation. These are the kinds of things we say when we feel rejected. When someone says something insulting or disrespectful we say they "belittle us" If people are stubborn or prejudiced, we call them small minded. If your influence, vision or dreams are small, you may be accused of being scared or lacking faith.

And then there are the more surface ways we use the word. We may feel discouraged if our house, our jeans or our portions are too small. Small then becomes attached to too, and these two words together shape unwanted images within us: too small to satisfy, too small to have an impact, to small to be important, too small to make a difference, too small to see. 

Small seems like the opposite of spacious, the opposite of enough, the opposite of free."

She then tells of a former mentor who once encouraged her to "celebrate her smallness." But in light of the shadows that had been cast, being small didn't feel like much of a cause for celebration. That is, until a few of her readers responded with a question . . .

Do you mean the good kind of small, or the bad kind of small?

And in that they cast a new light upon its meaning.

Standing near the ocean.
Creating art.
Looking at the stars.
Walking through the woods.
When everything is covered in snow.

She then quotes a passage from another a book, The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson, who writes;

"The metaphors Jesus used in his ministry are frequently images of the single, the small, the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven, seed. Our culture publicizes the opposite emphasis; the big, the multitudinous, the noisy."

And then goes on to say;

"But creation invites a vastly different image to the word small. Driving toward the mountains, standing on the beach, sitting beneath the sky on a moonless night, I feel small - but I like it this way. It's comforting, like I'm not in control and I wouldn't want to be.

In these places, I'm small enough to breathe in deeply, small enough to see what's happening, and small enough to let go, to be loved, and to remember the with-ness of Christ. This kind of small carries, wonder, gratitude and peace. This kind of small leads to worship."

- Emily P. Freeman

Theologian Richard Rohr once said, "the opposite of holding on isn't letting go, as we are prone to think, but rather participating in something greater than ourselves."


Recently, I shared on Instagram that I had begun work on a book. Its coming along slowly, but as I shared in the post, "a good author would probably have a deadline, but since I am writing this primarily as a work of love for my children and theirs, I am taking my time and loving every minute of it."

Quite without expecting it to evoke such a response, a few of my friends over at IG, Jennifer and Melanie (please DO pay them a visit and cheer them on!), were inspired by the idea of writing for writing's sake, which truthfully, is the only way I know how, and believe me, I've tried. For two years I blogged, juggled related social media accounts, and did my best to use key phrases (90% of which bored me to tears). I took pictures, or rather, I tried (we were living in a basement apartment with one window at the time), created graphics, and followed all of the "best practices" that only a "serious" writer/blogger would do. I paid for the right domain hosting, learned the ins and outs of Word Press, and after all that time . . . I was miserable.

When I stopped to think of the last time I was truly happy with my writing, it was at my previous blog(s), Life in the Little Nest (from our homeschooling years), and An Intentional Life, which was actually the same name I used for my "serious" blog in the beginning. In those days I wrote simply for the love of writing, and it flowed. But in my efforts to gain a following and become successful, I lost my heart and became disillusioned. So I ditched it all and went back to my roots. For truly, L-O-N-G before the experts set the standard for what deems one a writer, I was, in fact, a writer.  I've been writing since the age of twelve when I composed my first poem, what else could I be????

And then when Jennifer wrote these words, I was so inspired, and in that she launched the #writesmallmovement. In a related post the next day, I responded.

"After spending a lifetime writing, then two years following all the “rules” to be a successful writer, blogger, I have turned my back on all of it, save for writing.

The truth is I, we, ARE writers, and as for the matter of our success? Why should we feel confined and hindered by algorithms and expert opinions? When the truth is that our work and words matter, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant (only in our minds) will reach the heart(s) for which they are intended.

For me personally success (whatever that means) lies less in reaching the masses, but is found in the single soul who finds encouragement or whose spirit is uplifted by my writing. If God so intends, I will be successful, that is His work. Mine (ours), is to be faithful to steward the gift He has given. 

Ours......... is to write!!!!!"

And this, my friends, is my why, and as Richard Rohr stated so well, so that I might be part of something greater than myself. I don't write for the masses, but simply from my heart and on subjects that that I feel lead from personal experience, to speak to. I no longer do all-the-things that the experts say one should do to be successful, but trust the Lord to guide my writing to the hearts that need and will be inspired by it. As my new, but quickly becoming dear friend, Melanie, said in her reply;

"I’ve said (mostly to myself) a thousand times that I would rather my stories found a handful of truly appreciative readers than thousands who could take it or leave it." - Melanie Leavey

I've personally witnessed the power of writing small, for years now. As I have encouraged young mothers just starting out on their homeschooling journey, and more recently this past year with the series of Advent posts I developed, which was actually the springboard for my book. Knowing that there were families in other parts of the country and even the world, who were making space and coming together because of a few lines that I'd curated? No, I don't need to reach the masses. My goal isn't numbers, my goal is hearts.

I read another quote, though unfortunately forgot to note the source. That being said, the timing of it, which quickly followed the beginning of the #writeslowmovementt, wasn't wasted.

"God's job is to promote us. Our job, is to be the one He wants to promote when the time is right."

Small lives dot the pages of the Bible. I think of David, the youngest of the sons of Jesse, small in stature, a humble shepherd. But when called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit, he slew a giant. And of Esther, a young girl with no merit or position, who won the heart of a king and ultimately risked all to speak, to use her words in an appeal to her husband and saved a nation. ". . . for such a time as this." - Esther 4:14. I believe, being lead by their example, that we may slay giants and save souls, as well. 

But don't let me mislead you, I am not immune to the desire to be known, or to share in a measure of success. And turning a profit for your work? I like the sound of that, and perhaps that will come. But what I believe is happening, at least for me, is a cultivating. A knowledge that at first must be learned and then taught, which for now places less emphasis on the number of my followers, and more importantly upon developing an understanding of where I am leading them. I've dreamed of these days, strived for them for years now. But of late, the striving has ceased and in that, the creative spark has ignited once again. 

And so I encourage you, in whatever endeavor to which you feel called, whether that is writing or painting, this mind set applies to all mediums. Even if you're a young mom in the trenches of toddlerhood and teething babies and the only creative thing you've mustered is a page you colored with your little one today. You may not realize it now, but those are the building blocks, the blue print for greater things to come, for you and your children. Start small. Move slowly and take your time. Do that thing, and then do the next and do them all to the best of your ability, and then tomorrow, rise to do it all again. And over time, if you are faithful, the miracle will reveal itself in the seemingly mundane. I am proud to be a part of the #writesmallmovement, and for all of us inclusive, #livesmall.

"Be not afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still."

- Chinese Proverb

This post contains affiliate links.
When you click through and make a purchase
we receive a small monetary compensation.
We appreciate your support.
Thank you