Monday, January 31, 2022

A Year Without Resolutions - Being, Not Doing

A new poll of 2,000 Americans found that it takes just 32 days for the average person to finally break their resolution(s) — but 68% report giving up their resolutions even sooner than that. In fact, January 17 is actually known as "Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions Day". But most people calls it quits on their resolutions on or around February 1, and one in seven Americans never actually believe they'll see their resolutions through in the first place.  As a fellow resolution-ditcher, these numbers don't really surprise me.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had decided in 2022 to take a gentler approach to the new year.  So a few weeks ago, in my journey of quietly forging this gentler path, I decided that this year I'm not making New Year's Resolutions. No jotting down goals or dreams in hopes of becoming a better version of myself eleven months from now. Instead, I've decided that rather devise yet another list of things to "do", I simply want to "be" with what I already know,  and live more in the routines and rituals that have guided my life for about a year now, to dwell in the unforced rhythms of grace.

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

- Matthew 11:20-30, The Message

As most of you know, because I've mentioned it more than once, discovering the spiritual disciplines through developing A Rule of Life has been life-changing for me. In fact, I would dare to say that A Rule is the very reason I've decided to ditch resolutions completely. Because once your life is already governed by order and marked by discipline, if anything you can simply revisit the Rule and adjust accordingly. I likewise credit the use of the Weekly Examen, a fundamental in decision not to resolute to new beginnings once the calendar rolled around to January 1.  One of the greatest benefits of the Weekly Examen is that I don't wait an entire year for things to get so far off track that as the year begins to wind down I feel the sudden urge to reinvent the wheel. By checking in with myself weekly (every Sunday), things, more of less, have fallen into an easy, natural rhythm (MOST things, not everything!).

That being said, learning to live in the "unforced rhythms of grace", by not only writing A Rule of Life but learning to live in it, takes time.  You're not going to put all of this into practices in a week, not even in a month. I've been at this for a little over a year now and I still consider myself a toddler. It's still all very fresh and new.

"A Rule of Life is an intentional pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. A Rule establishes a rhythm for life in which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how He has made us. The disciplines which we build into our rhythm of life help us to shed the “old self” and allow our “new self” in Christ to be formed, and that takes time. 

Additionally, in order to be life-giving, a Rule must be realistic! It is not an ideal toward which you are striving to soar. Instead, your initial Rule should be a minimum standard for your life that you do not want to drop below. It’s a realistic level of engaging in the spiritual disciplines for which you can honestly and truly be held accountable. Ultimately a Rule should help you to love God more, so if it becomes a legalistic way of earning points with God or impressing others, it should be scrapped."

- C. S. Lewis Institute

Of course, the word "Rule" is enough to alarm some people, and cause others to judge it as being a means by which we earn our way to heaven. But in this case, the "rule" is less about of list of "rules to obey" and more about a "ruler" which one can use to measure their spiritual health and growth. I would also offer that as God has created each of us uniquely, with our own tastes and preferences, that while the structure remains the same, how one lives out the practices will vary from one person to the next. Should you decide to develop your own Rule, you will find, as I have, that some disciplines come naturally and flow freely, while others take more devotion to master. And as humans, I don't believe that it will even be possible for us to successfully engage in all of the disciplines and practices perfectly within a single day, week or perhaps even a lifetime, although that is what the Rule is designed to aide you in doing. That being said, I know for me, things do slip. Life happens and I get busy and realize that I'm not living in alignment with my values and beliefs, or that because I find one of the disciplines more difficult to master I've allowed it to take a back seat, when in reality it should be my primary focus.

"Allow your rule to develop slowly over time. Listen for God and realize that the unique expression of Christ in you, your family, and your church will look different than the expression of Christ in others. It can be helpful to remember that the kingdom is built by the whole of the church body, so you need only seek to be a faithful hand or foot. Ask God how to live your part faithfully."

- Jenn Giles Kemper

Armed with this knowledge, this is why in closing out this first month of 2022, I've ditched resolutions and decided instead to revisit my own Rule and devote myself to improvement. Even in following a Weekly Examen, I'm ashamed to say that as I reflect regularly on things things like "Exercise daily", "Drink X glasses of water per day", I fail, miserably in my efforts to reset and be more disciplined. And it's not because I can't, it's because I simply don't want to. Raw, and honest. :/

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm going to be participating in the course, Growing A Rule of Life during Lent, which begins on March 2, so just a little over a months from now. This course is, as I previously stated, different from the one that originally introduced me to the Rule, but as I'm ditching resolutions and want to deepen my understanding on the subject, I think a fresh perspective is a good idea.

In the mean time, and during February, I thought I would share what developing and living by a Rule looks like for me, personally. So beginning this week I'm going to break down each section  and elaborate more fully on the subject. This will serve two purposes, which I'm very excited about. One, I think before I begin the course during Lent it would be helpful to revisit my Rule and, I'm hoping that in sharing it with you it will help to make things a little clearer and perhaps even inspire you in your own journey. But don't worry, if this doesn't interest you in the least, I'll be peppering these posts with other content, as well.

But for today, if you're interested in reading more about a Rule of Life I'm going to link to some resources that I've found helpful and you might, as well. I hope you'll find one or more of them inspiring.

- Instructions For Developing A Personal Rule of Life - from the C. S. Lewis Institute, quoted above.
- How Do You Define Success? I Needed A New System - I personally LOVE this article!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Finding A Better Way - My Wheel of Life

I'm currently watching a message series, A Better Way by Craig Groeschel. I watched the first part yesterday and the second today. I had planned to finish it this week, but today he suggested that listeners be open to praying a specific prayer for seven days, and since I'm a "rule follower", LOL, I guess I'll have to find something else in the mean time. 

The blurb on the website promoting the series says "Sometimes it feels like nothing is working. We can do all the right things and check all the boxes, but life seems to stay the same. How can we find the life we're longing for? Together, let’s discover A Better Way." And while I wouldn't say that I feel like NOTHING in my life is working or even staying the same, necessarily, there are a few areas of my life where I suppose I've felt stuck for a number of years. What drew me to the series was a clip that was featured in his Best of 2021, which highlighted four series from the past year and included A Better Way.

As I said, while I don't completely relate to the blurb, it was one line that he said in the clip that originally peaked my interest.

"What if the greatest enemy to the life you want, is the life you're living?"

To be honest, that kind of hit me where it hurts, and here I was thinking I was doing ok. I don't know if you're like me, but I remember when I was little that I had this idea that a day would arrive when I was "all grown up", which I think in my mind meant that I would know all that there was to know and I suppose reach a state of perfection. It's almost laughable to me now how assured I was way back then of that possibility. And being an INFJ (Highly creative and artistic), and an Enneagram 5 (Type Five's are "The Investigator" because, more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they are.), I'm honestly not sure how I EVER expected to reach the end of myself! LOL!

So last night, after contemplating what I had learned from the sermon, I decided to utilize some of those resources that I mentioned in this post, that I have linked in my right side bar, "Resources I Have Found Useful". I decided to begin with the Wheel of Life. I find it a useful tool for gauging how satisfied I am with various areas of my life and comparing it with previous years.

The wheel allows you to grade yourself in eight areas on a scale of 1-10, 1 being extremely dissatisfied, and 10 being very satisfied. So I thought I'd just be transparent here with you today and share my thoughts and how I rated myself, and then expand on that by explaining how this relates to the sermon.

So let's just jump in . . .

Career - For most of my life I've been a stay at home/homeschooling mom. The only exception to that was when I worked in day care after high school through my early twenties, and then again for about a year in my thirties. Following my divorce from my first husband, I went to work as a seasonal cashier for Barnes & Noble. That job lasted for a decade with several promotions eventually leading to my roll as a Community Relations Manager, which aside from being a stay at home, was my favorite job! But for the past 20+ years and since moving to Virginia, I have been at home, which while perhaps not a "career", is definitely a job. Writing is really the only other venture that would even come close to being a career, and I deem it more a hobby than anything else. That being said, since I LOVE being a home keeper, I rated my satisfaction at an 8 out of a possible 10, because there is always room for improvement!

*Family & Friends - In this area I rated my satisfaction once again at 8. Because while I am very happy in all of my relationships, being an introvert, and by that I mean the "poster child for introverts", its an area that I always feel I could do better in. For one, I'm not the most affectionate person, or even thoughtful, I suppose. I'm a weird mix. In my mind I express my love by keeping our home clean, organized and pretty, but deep down I know that I would do that anyway, even if it was just me because I am truly the one who loves and want a clean and organized home. So, I'm not really sure that translates? I know that especially at Christmas and Birthdays that my family appreciates my efforts, but day to day? I'm just not sure that mopping the floor in the family room and fluffing the pillows speaks quite as loudly as perhaps a big wet kiss or a hug would. So, 8 it is and maybe that was even patting my back a little!

*Significant Other / Romance - Again, an 8, and as an explanation I could really just say, "see paragraph above". My husband is definitely the more romantic one in our relationship, and the only reason I'm even giving myself an 8 is because he loves me as I am. Of course right now he's in the van and traveling and he won't be home until late spring/early summer. So between now and then I'm hoping to think through some ways that I can improve. Even if he loves me warts and all, that doesn't mean that I should grow too comfortable in that or take it for granted.

*In taking the time to write this out I now realize that I think I scored myself too highly and I would probably now rate these areas at a 6, a high 6, but not quite a 7 and definitely not an 8. Don't get me wrong, my family knows I love them, but I need to be more intentional in how I express that love and the frequency in which I express it.

Fun & Recreation - I scored this area an 8 as well, and I think that's probably accurate. I have a number of hobbies and interests, almost too many to be honest, which is one area that could do with some improvement. I think I could benefit from narrowing things down and focusing only on a few things at a time rather than trying to do it all. Social media has not always been my friend when it comes to fun and recreation, which for me is my hobbies. I see something new and immediately want to do it. I can't tell you the amount of money I've spent because I saw this neat idea on Pinterest and just HAD to try it. And I'm even more ashamed to admit how many times I spent the money on the supplies and then never even got back to it, which we'll cover here in a minute. But, I think 8 is still an accurate reflection of my satisfaction, with the improvement being narrowing my interests and perhaps focusing on new things in each season. I'll have to give it some thought.

Health - In this area I gave myself a 6 and it could definitely do with some improvement. There was a time when I was doing really well, exercising regularly, watching my diet. But when my health took a hit around this time last year, while I did recover from the initial problem, I used that as an excuse for falling out of habit with some diet restrictions and more specifically, exercise. I've been telling myself since last spring, so almost a year now, that as soon as it got warmer I was going to start walking again. That hasn't happened. Then before I knew it, it was autumn again, which is always when I struggle the most because of all the holidays and my birthday, and then it was Christmas, and now there's been snow on the ground since January 3 . . . you get the picture. It's not even that I'm having any noticeable health problems, but I know that if I don't make some changes soon, I probably will.

Money - this is the area I rated myself the lowest, with a 4. I am a spender, and money has ALWAYS been a problem for me, literally all of my life. I remember when I was little my mother used to say that "money burned a hole in my pocket". I got an allowance after school every Friday which was usually spent and gone before sunset that same day. Saving was never something I was good at. Thankfully I'm married to a saver, but I could still stand a LOT of improvement in this area.  One of the areas that I am trying to do better in is not wasting food. I love to cook, but I struggle with portions, meaning I still cook like I have a house full of kids and right now it's just myself and my daughter. And while I do freeze leftovers, I am also not that good at making sure they make it back into the meal rotation so that even they often go to waste. This is something I've been specifically focusing on since January, and while I do see some improvement, I'm definitely not where I want to be yet. Not wasting food=not wasting money, and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing better $$$ habits.

Personal Growth - I scored this level at an 8, and I am happy with that assessment. I've grown in a number of areas over the past year, especially spiritually and emotionally. I have struggled a bit with depression off and on, but I've been encouraged by my understanding of why I was feeling down and my ability to map out a plan to improve on it. Now if I can just apply that to my health and finances!

Physical Environment - And finally, I scored this area an 8 as well, though honestly it could have even been a 9 and the highest score.  I take a lot of pride in our home and in making things warm and cozy. I am tired of moving, and we'll be moving again once Bill is back. But I do like the excitement of setting up home in a new space and deciding which pieces look best were and adding all the little finishing touches. I settled on a style of decorating about ten years ago, and since I'm not swayed by trends, I've acquired a nice collection of things that all look lovely and work well together, at least, I think they do, and I don't have any plans to change that. I would rather add small touches here and there to change things up a bit than redecorate entirely. I like our little "prim apartment", and I'm sure I'll like the next place, too. 

So there you have it. It's been interesting, writing this out, to have an opportunity to rethink a few of the categories and realize that I need to make some adjustments.

One thing that isn't covered, is satisfaction with how I spend my time. I suppose the closest thing would be Fun and Recreation, but even that isn't really an accurate assessment. Time, or what always seems to be a lack of it, is actually one of the things that I find frustrating, and part of the reason for that is something I've already mentioned. I plan my days full to the brim, most days anyway, because there is just so much that I need and want to accomplish. But at the end of the day there always seems to be something that didn't get done, or I forgot about something. Most of it isn't even all that important, really. But as an example, I signed up for an online seminar last week and then got so involved in other things that I completely forgot about it and I was really rather disappointed. Is it earth shattering that I didn't learn how to do one-more-thing? No! Maybe its even better that I didn't. But it was something I was looking forward to and I allowed other things that were less important to me to rob me of the experience. And this is just one example. This is not the first time this has happened.

In the sermon series, A Better Way, this is addressed specifically;

"If you find yourself having the thought, "There's just never enough time. . . the truth is, you have time for what you choose to have time for. The solution is not more time, the solution is making time for more of what matters most. The reason most of us don't have time for what matters most is because we're mindlessly spending our time involved in things that don't matter."

And guess what I'm mindlessly spending my time doing? Scrolling! Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and as I said, making lists of things that I need to make this craft or that recipe, when the truth is I have craft projects I never finished and some that I never even started, and a pantry and freezer full of food that needs to be eaten before I try another recipe. Especially since a lot of the ingredients in the pantry and freezer are for the recipe I just had to make a month ago! Please tell me I'm not the only one? 

The life I want is simpler, less cluttered, and more specifically, with a mind towards waste, not only of the money it costs to buy the food and supplies, but the money that is wasted when so much of it goes unused or expires. I want to be a better steward, of my money, my time and my resources. Listening to this series and mapping out my wheel of life has really helped me to see just how far I truly am from that state of perfection I once dreamed of! :) Of course, I now know I'll never be perfect, but I am definitely capable of making improvements, and that is my goal. 

One thing I do need to guard against, however, is that I have a tendency when I see something wrong, or several things wrong, to want to rush to fix it all at once, which is one of the reasons why I feel I've lacked success in some aspects of my life in the past. I realize, though it will be hard, that what I need to do is start small. Pick one thing and work on that for awhile and develop some consistency before I move on to tackling the next thing. I read this on Instagram (while I was scrolling!) the other day, and I think I'm going to type it up and put it somewhere I can see it as a reminder.

Start by doing 1 push up.
Start by drinking 1 cup of water.
Start by paying toward 1 debt.
Start by reading 1 page.
Start by making 1 sale.
Start by deleting 1 old contact.
Start by walking 1 lap.
Start by attending 1 event.
Start by writing 1 paragraph.

Start today.

Repeat tomorrow.

I'm starting with 1 thing. 1 thing that matters, and eliminating 1 thing that doesn't. What's your 1 thing? Want to start with me? If you want to begin by filling in your own Wheel Of Life, click the link in the right side bar under "Resources I've Found Useful".  Next up . . . a continuation of my discussion of A Rule of Life.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Small Things - January 22, 2022

 "Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."

GLADYS TABER


1. In the participating in the Slow Living Challenge 2022

2. I watched this movie yesterday, Junior Miss (1945), sweet little gem! It's in two parts, here's Part 2.

3. This looks like something I would enjoy, The Lost Skills.

4. Love this idea for writing a weekly reflection, These Are The Days

5. I came across this blog this week while looking for resources for celebrating Candlemas, which is coming up soon, February 2.  She hasn't updated since May of 2020, but if you observe the liturgical year, it looks like there are a wealth of resources here, including Music for Candlemas.

6. And finally, the picture you see at the top is of coffee dough ornaments. I usually make them at Christmas, but I use them to adorn a lot of my primitive crafts year round, so I made up a fresh batch. You can find the recipe here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Movies of My Youth

As I've done for about five years in a row now, I began the new year (New Year's Eve and New Year's Day), rewatching the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. It's a tradition I've grown to love, and this year in particular I think I enjoyed the Hobbit as never before. It's the first time I've been alone (for the most part, Kate was in and out but did not watch the movies with me), and as such, I was able to give them my full and undivided attention. That has led me to the conclusion that I prefer The Hobbit trilogy above LOTR, but just to be sure, I've decided to watch them all again before the new year, slowly and one at a time. I might begin again this weekend, we'll see.

Since then I've actually been revisiting some movies from my youth, in particular from the late 70's and early 80's. It happened unexpectedly really. I was scrolling a bit mindlessly through the plethora of offerings on Netflix, Hulu and Prime, when a title jumped out from the screen and transported me instantly to the months just following my graduation from high school, The Competition, starring Richard Dreyfuss (who wore entirely too much makeup throughout the movie!), and an actress I'd forgotten about, Amy Irving. Now if you're familiar with the movie, and before you go judging my cinematic tastes, I would not rate this movie highly. Even in its day I recall finding Dreyfuss/Irving an odd mix and a bit unbelievable as a couple. I preferred Irving over Dreyfuss at the time, but oddly enough didn't follow her career past this movie. I did, sadly, watch Yentl this past week in my efforts to explore her other works, what an odd movie that was, and Honeysuckle Rose, which faired only somewhat better. For someone who was once married to Steven Spielberg you would think the girl would have been considered for better roles. But I think what I liked about The Competition in particular, and a few others I've watched since then like Ice Castles (again, no judging, LOL!), and The Goodbye Girl (STILL one of my all time favorites), is the feel of them. Naturally they carry a vibe true to the time in which they were made, I'm just not sure until recently that I'd ever really noticed it. It's funny how when you're young you think that the things that you like will never grow old!

Aside from The Goodbye Girl and Star Wars (which is timeless, in my opinion), I haven't spent a lot of time watching movies from this time period, because if I'm honest, I find them a bit hokey. And they are. Maybe it was because I was fighting off a head cold, or the glare from the all the snow we've had recently was reflecting on the screen, but the sentiment they stirred in me made watching them worth it. The cinematography of the day, the fonts used for the titles, the soundtracks. They swept me up and warmed me, in spite of the fact that I wanted to wipe Richard Dreyfuss' face with a soapy wash cloth in almost every scene.

Ice Castles has always held a special place in my heart, since I chose one of the songs from the soundtrack for my wedding, and sang it a year later at the wedding of a friend. But something that The Competition aroused in me (other than reminding me of a line I once borrowed when I was angry at an ex-boyfriend, see the first quote from Greta) was my love for classical music. I grew up listening to it with my dad, who had a love affair with NPR which he has now passed on to me. Life is a funny thing, this week I recalled that it was this movie that introduced me to Sergei Prokofiev, and in particular to Piano Concerto No. 3, which is the song that Amy Irving's character plays. I listened to Prokofiev for months after seeing this movie, in particular Romeo and Juliet, which lulled me to sleep many a night. He is, by far, one of my favorite composers, as well as Rachmaninoff, who wrote a beautiful piece featured in the movie, Somewhere In Time, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. That entire movie is where my love for movie soundtracks first began, and if you're interested, you can listen to it in its entirety, here. It also happens to be one of the better movies of the early 80's.

Over Christmas I attended an online performance of Handel's Messiah at The Washington National Cathedral, and I think that, along with all of this reminiscing, has rekindled my desire to listen to classical music again, which led me this book,  A Year of Wonder: Classical Music To Enjoy Day by Day by Clemency Burton Hill (Affiliate Link). In it is highlighted a piece of classical music for every day of the year, along with a bit of history. Since I discovered it late, I began yesterday, when the featured selection was ‘Dirait-on’ – ‘Should We Say’ from Les chansons des roses by Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943). I like this piece in particular because it was inspired by the works of one of my favorite poets, Rainier Maria Rilke. You can listen to it, here. If my dad were alive I have a feeling he would enjoy listening to these, as well, and I'm going to try to be intentional about listening to them in his honor. His knowledge of classical music never extended beyond his love for the music itself. He wasn't familiar with the names of the works or even the composers, really. He listened to classical music simply for the joy it brought him. I can even recall when I thought NPR was possibly the worst station a person could listen to and that classical music was boring. But somewhere along the way, thankfully, I began to appreciate it as well. I do like that the book breaks the selections down, and that it's just one song each day, a brief pause for a bit of culture and the thrill of perhaps being introduced to a new composition.

If you grew up in the 70's and 80's you might be familiar with some of the movies I've mentioned, and maybe you want to take a little trip down memory lane, yourself. So I'm providing you with links to most of the ones I've included in this post, a few of them are free, and all at a minimal cost. As I mentioned, at least a few of these are not what I would consider high quality viewing, but they are fun in their own right, if for nothing more to reminisce about the days of our youth.

The Competition - Free if you have Prime
Of note, neither Dreyfuss or Irving played the piano, and trained for weeks to make it appear as if they were actually concert level musicians. That alone is impressive.

The Goodbye Girl - Free if you have Prime.

Ice Castles - Rent for $3.99

Somewhere In Time - Rent for $3.99

I also just discovered Crossing Delancey with Amy Irving. I've rented it and plan to watch it today! If you happen to have memories of and suggestions for other movies from the late 70's and early 80's that I may have forgotten, leave a reminder in the comments!

All rental links are non-affiliate.


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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Growing A Rule of Life - A Lenten Journey

I mentioned in my post yesterday how developing a Rule of Life has benefited and grown me personally and spiritually. And while I originally wrote my rule two years ago, I'm still learning to live it, tweak it, and broadening my understanding of this principle.

Around the same time that I found the sermon series and workbook that I linked in my post yesterday (which is the resource I originally used), I came across several other resources that I considered and a few that I even downloaded but have yet to utilize. Among those is Growing A Rule of Life, produced by The Society of Saint John the Baptist in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The sermon series and accompanying workbook, which I will link below, were originally written as part of a Lenten series, and as Lent is coming up the first week of March, I've decided to listen to the sermons and work through the workbook during this season, to deepen and broaden my understanding. It could be that I take nothing new away from this teaching, but to be honest, I highly doubt that. I also like that they use the example of a garden and gardening as it relates to tending to our own spiritual life and development, which also seems beautifully appropriate as we will be nearing the spring equinox.

If a Rule of Life is something that has peaked your interest and you'd like to join me, I'm going to post the schedule and the links you'll need to participate. I'll be listening to the sermons each Sunday and then writing a post the following week, and I would love for you to join the conversation in the comments or by linking to your own post if you have a blog and are so inclined. It's also perfectly acceptable if you simply want to use the resources for your own personal/private study. As an introvert, I am all too familiar with and sensitive to the desire for privacy. 

Growing a Rule of Life - .pdf workbook 

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022

First Sunday of Lent - March 6, 2022
Rules of Life and The Rhythm of Nature - Br. James Koester

Second Sunday of Lent - March 13, 2022

Third Sunday of Lent - March 20, 2022

Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 27, 2022

Fifth Sunday of Lent - April 3, 2022

Sixth Sunday of Lent - April 10, 2022

Easter is Sunday, April 17, 2022

There's a place for you sign up for daily emails, short sermons and exercises. I'm not sure if that's something that is still available, but you can access each days content here in the left side bar. I personally will be working through the exercises each day, but I will write a collective weekly post and share my thoughts and what I've learned.

There are a number of other resources that I've utilized and found helpful in my personal relationship with the Lord and spiritual growth which I've linked in my right side bar, "Resources I've Found Useful".  I've also decided its time to refresh a few of those, so I'll be sharing my experience and insights in the days and weeks to come, if thats something that interests you. And as the season of Lent approaches, I'll be sharing resources I use in my observance, as well.

At any rate, I hope you'll find something that proves to be beneficial.  It's still cold and frigid here with a good layer of icy snow on the ground and more to come, apparently. I think this may be the snowiest January I can recall in some years, not that I'm complaining. But I am concerned for my daughter who works for Target and has already missed a few days of work due to the weather.  And now I'm off to revisit a few of those resources I mentioned. Have a lovely day friends, and stay warm!

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Gentle Start To The New Year


 "And what does January hold? Clean account books. Bare diaries. Three hundred and sixty five new days, neatly parceled into weeks, months, and seasons. A chunk of time, of life . . . those first few notes, like an orchestra tuning up before the play begins."

- PHYLLIS NICHOLSON

I love a fresh start, and January always arrives with the promise of that. For years now, I've spent the greater part of the week between Christmas and New Years, planner and journals open and ready to embark upon a list of lofty goals, only to find soon after that I've already fallen out of rhythm. 

I was deep in the throes of disappointment with myself recently, when I recalled that I hadn't listened to the latest podcast that my dear friend, Heather, provides for us in each week at Hearth and Home, appropriately titled, Easing Into The New Year. In it, I was happy to discover that she is prone to taking a slower step into the changes that the promise of a new year brings, especially in light of the fact that for her, as well as for many of us, come January 1, we are still deep in holiday celebration. Since I observe the liturgical calendar, Christmastide spans through January 6, so it isn't until the days following the observance of Epiphany that our decorations even come down. She was good to remind us that there are no hard and fast rules about how or when we embark upon the changes that we want to make in our lives, if at all. It caused me to consider, perhaps for the first time, how much weight that date, January 1, holds for so many of us. I'm not sure there is any other time, save for perhaps a birthday or anniversary, when time is marked so sharply. In any other regular month the 30th or 31st slips seamlessly into the the 1st, and we don't give it a second thought. But come December 31, you had better have your ducks in a row come morning, if you hope to achieve anything in the coming year, or so we've been prone to believe.

Listening to her podcast breathed new life into my "I might as well just go ahead and give up now" bones. I realized that rather than failing too quickly, I was setting myself up for failure with the timing of it all. I'm simply not ready, come January 1. It's a new year, yes, but it's still Christmastide, my favorite time of the year, and while the calendar pushes us forward to "new beginnings", I'm still resting in the glow of the end of a most beautiful season. I'm much more rested and ready to embark upon my goals mid January, say, around the 15th. Enough time to celebrate Christmastide through the Epiphany and ease, as the church calendar suggests, back into "ordinary time".

This year we've also had several snow days. On January 3 we got a good, wet 6", then a dusting on the 6th, which was nothing, really, and then yesterday we got 3" of snow but a good amount of ice on top of it. Now, I realize that 6" is nothing for many of you, but bear with me here. You're talking to a Texas girl who lived forty years of her life with very little snow and longed for the want of it. I can probably count on one hand, if my memory serves me correctly, the number of days school was cancelled because of  snow when I was growing up. So, yes, now as full grown adult, I have reserved the right to make up for all the snow days I was deprived of in my childhood.  It is a silly thing, I suppose, but I'm taking them, none-the-less. We took them when we homeschooled, as well, since here in Virginia they rarely last more than a few days. Homeschooled, or not, I was absolutely not going to deprive my children of the very thing I wanted and missed as a child. So, with all that, what I'm really trying to say here, is that my want for observing "snow days" has likewise extended my time of rest and leisure, and failed in promoting a sense of urgency to begin checking off the boxes in the achievement of my goals. And speaking of goals . . .

Even in this, I'm being gentle in my ambitions this year, focusing on tweaking rhythms and rituals that I set in place, and some that I have yet to set in place, at the start of 2021, a few even back in 2020. I learned about A Rule of Life a few years ago, and wrote out my own, which I'll be sharing in increments over the coming months, and it has been life changing for me. If you are not familiar with A Rule of Life, you can download a workbook to write your own, here. (This is the resource I used). I would also suggest listening to this series, Unhurrying With A Rule of Life. To be honest, I only wish that I had discovered this sooner, but I'm happy, at least, to have discovered it at all. Writing out my personal Rule of Life has helped me to define the margins and prioritize what is important. It is the scale by which I measure my days, weeks and months. It determines the outcome of every yes, or no, because it has aided me in defining what is important and necessary, and to guard it. For the most part I've done well in implementing it, but there are a few components, that I'll be discussing over the next few days, that I have yet to put in place and I'm hoping to make them a regular part of my life rhythm in 2022.

My word for the year is "YEARN", which I found interesting since my word for the year in 2021 was "SEEK", and I felt that I didn't really give it the full attention and intention that it deserved.  It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was saying, "OK, since you didn't fully embrace SEEK last year, now you get to YEARN." But what I do know is that yearning has definitely been seeded deep in my soul.  I think Tozer said it better than I in this quote.

"I want the presence of God, Himself, or I don't want anything at all to do with religion. 
I want all that God has, or I don't want any."

- A. W. TOZER

I was so moved by that quote when I read it that I promptly wrote it out on the first page of my Bible. For most of my adult life I've struggled to make my faith my own, and not piggy back off of my parent's beliefs or even feel, necessarily, that I needed to adapt to my husbands' belief system, although I did that for several years. For me, it's been more of an unlearning, than a learning. Separating "religion" from "relationship" has been monumental for me, as I'm sure it is for most people. If you want to know someone it helps if you have a relationship with them. Elementary, perhaps, but it took me a lot of years to understand that about God (L-O-N-G story!). But since becoming a follower of Christ, and especially over the past two years, my faith has become not only very personal, but has grown by leaps and bounds. To say that I truly "yearn" for God, and want it all, is probably an understatement. I am also quite sure that I do not, in my humanity, fully grasp what to yearn for God even looks like. I got a little taste of it last week when I was having a bit of a dark, lonely day, and for the first time in I can't remember when, I cried. It was in that moment that the word "yearn" came back to me, and I felt ashamed that I often do not long for Him the way I long and hurt for other relationships in my life. In that instant I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to keep this memory fresh in my heart and to help me hurt in my want for God as deeply as I was hurting in that moment. I also stopped hurting, not surprisingly, and stop crying instantly after this revelation. Oh Lord, let my want for nothing in this world exceed my longing and yearning for you!

And so my friends, I want to encourage you today in this. If you, like me and so many others, began on January 1 with a list that you now realize you haven't looked at since and are feeling guilty about it, don't! Stop, pray and regroup. Look at that list again. Maybe you're trying to achieve too much. If there are five things on your list and that seems like too much, consider if, perhaps, you should  narrow that down to three. Or instead of just writing them all out, prioritize them and set a date to begin working on the first thing on the list. Once you have that accomplished or in place, then, and only then, move on to the next. Also consider if your goals truly reflect what is important to you and to your family. Are these things that you feel are authentic, or just something you picked up somewhere that sounded like a good idea? Always remember, that even good things, are not necessarily the best things for you and for your family. Try to keep that distinguished. 

As fitting as it would seem, this was the first thing I read this morning when I opened up Instagram.

"Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. 
Tip toe if you must, but take the step."

- CRYSTAL PAINE

I've decided to tip-toe slowly into 2022, I hope you'll join me!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Small Things - January 15, 2022

"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


GLADYS TABER

In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired me this week.

1. Gentle goals for a new year.

2. 1000 Hours Outside Kick Off Pack - a wonderful resource if you have have children (especially if you homeschool), but to be honest, I'm going to give it a go myself, I'm not shooting for a thousand, but definitely want to up my game.

3. Snowflake Pancakes - this might be for breakfast tomorrow, too cute!

4. Love this little needle house for keeping up with your needles. 

5. Alexandra Stoddard has long been a favorite author of mine, and this was the first of her books that I read, and possibly still my favorite. Pour a cup of tea and enjoy!

6. But Of Little Things

Life is made up,
not of great sacrifices or duties,
but of little things,
in which smiles and kindnesses,
and small obligations given habitually,
are what win and preserve
the heart and secure comfort.

- Sir H. Davy

Also, the picture at the top was part of my Christmas present from my aunt and I just LOVE it! I've since framed and hung it (I'll share in another post). 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Welcome To My Storage Room / Office / Craft & Christmas Room


Today I thought I would give you a quick tour of my recently re-purposed Storage Room / Office / Craft & Christmas Room, so as you can tell, there is a LOT going on in this space.

To begin with up until the first week of January, this room was just totes and cardboard boxes stacked all along the walls.  Organized, yes, but not the least bit pretty or really even functional.  I've wanted a room for my craft things for awhile now, and I also didn't really like my office being in my bedroom. It just wasn't very relaxing. So I decided before Christmas that after the first of the year I would tackle this room and see if I could come up with a plan to allow for the storage and unsightly cardboard boxes to have a place and still be functional. Because it serves so many purposes, it is a bit, well, busy, but I don't mind that so much in this room.  My tastes tend to run a little on the busy side, anyway, I guess you could say. Some people might call it clutter, but I'm pretty organized with my clutter and intentional about placement, etc.

So, let's begin. This first picture is to the right of the door as you walk in. The small black dresser was in my closet and taking up a lot of space that I needed. Other than my sheets and towels, which I easily found another place for, it was already housing some craft items, specifically my soap and candle making supplies and paper crafts and water color supplies. Moving the towels and sheets out made room for my candle collection (I tend to buy them cheap on sale after Christmas), and I am using the top drawer for tea things. I found our kettle while I was cleaning and organizing and set it up on top, and that coffee cup holder I got at Target fo $3.00.  The two little wooden shutters used to fit together, and they may again some day, but one of the shutters had a piece break off that I need to see if I can repair, so I unscrewed them and mounted the other two on the wall on each side. I love having a designated place to make tea without even having to leave the room if I don't want to. Some days my office duties take me awhile, and I'm in here for some time, and a cup of tea always sweetens the task of tasks like paying bills. 
Also in this space is, obviously, the Christmas tree, which yes, I plan to keep up, but not lit, well, not all the time, anyway. I left it up because I want to do a major overhaul with my ornaments this year, and I've wanted to for several years. One of the things that was holding me back was that I like to see how they look on the tree before I commit to making multiples, and since it was always in the box, that meant I couldn't even consider starting until November, which in my mind, is just too late. Our tree is fairly small, which I like, so it fit easily in this space and the only thing in that closet behind it are boxes that I don't need to access, so that's where it ended up. The black shelf next to it was in this room, but full of books, which are now in boxes waiting for a new shelf which will go in my bedroom and is less needed at the moment.  So this shelf now holds my yarn and crochet/knitting needles, some of my cross stitch supplies, some paper craft supplies and water color supplies on the bottom shelf, and my essential oil collection on the top shelf. You'll also notice our stocking hanging from the corners, and that is because I also want to personalize them and if they're packed away, out of sight. . . . out of mind, until it's really too late to do anything with them.

That leads us to this next picture which is of both of the black shelves and the tv in the middle. Right now, as you can easily see, I'm using what I have, including two totes to hold the tv. My goal is to get one of those shelves with cubbies and baskets, and put that in the middle, one so that it will look better, and two so that it will function better, but for now, I'm more interested in not spending $ and using what I have. The TV just slipped perfectly down into the recess on the top of the tote, so that's where it stayed. It's not even functional right now, it needs either a DVD player to watch movies, or a Fire Stick, and again, I don't want to invest in either right now. I'm also not sure I want to keep this TV, so there's that, but it was being stored in this room until we decide, so it had to have a home. The other black shelf holds all my office supplies and files, which is why the top half is covered with a curtain, to hide the clutter. But the most important thing about these two black shelves is that they, along with the curtain I used a shower curtain rod to hold in place between them, is hiding the rest of the totes and cardboard boxes that are not in the closet, and that was my primary goal. 

Kate was already in this apartment with two room mates when I started having health problems in December of 2020 and had to come out of the van and move back in. Since then both of her room mates have moved out, leaving us with a three bedroom apartment. To compensate for the additional cost, we cancelled our storage unit and moved all of that into this room, so that is how it became a storage room in the first place, and as I said, until a few weeks ago that is exactly what it looked like, a storage facility!  There are even two huge tires that need to be sold behind those shelves! One of the things I also love about this set up, is that to access anything we do want to sell, I just pull out the two totes, take down the curtain, and it's all right there. Easy-peasy!

And now to the other side of the room.  The shelf you see there in the corner is built in, there's actually another one on the other side, filled with storage and hidden by the black book cases. These apartments were built I think in the 50's or 60's and they have a lot of little quirky things like this in them.  I don't really like them, but I will say that it did provide a nice place to keep out some of my favorite Christmas and wintry decorations which I enjoy seeing year round. There are two shelves on the bottom that you can't see that house my Bella Grace magazine collection, which was originally on one of the black shelves. And then the stack of black totes holds additional cross stitch supplies, seasonal baking supplies, like cookie cutters and seasonal muffin liners, etc. One of the totes holds general sewing supplies, the big tote on the bottom holds all of my fabric and the small tote on the top holds my acrylic paints. The little green tray and the red mail box have since found another home. As for the chair, it's just an old chair I picked up on the side of the road. It's broken and taped together on the bottom, so you can't sit on it, but I love it and use it keep my baskets, or to hold other light-weight items. And as for the items on the wall, I just hung up a few things I wasn't using elsewhere in the house, so not a lot of thought has gone into it yet. I do have some ideas for some decorative things I'd like to make to hang there, but that's low on the priority list. My guess is that we'll be moving again come July. Kate is ready to have her own place, and Bill will be coming home about that time, so I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to decorate this space in the mean time. But if I do make anything for it, it won't be hard to repurpose it wherever we end up, since my entire house is decorated with the same colors, red, green and black. :)

And finally, that leads us to my desk, which I am still trying to figure out.  Right now it's just two saw horses with a very heavy piece of wood on top, which worked out better than I imagined. But the height is weird. It's too tall for a regular chair and that chair is also not comfortable, but too short for a stool, I tried that. So for now I just lay my planner out here every day and stand, for the most part, except on the days I pay bills and then, to be honest, this week I brought in a blanket and sat on the floor. It was easier to do that than to cart all the files, etc. into another room.  But most days, like I said, I just open up my planner and since this room is pretty central to the rest of the house, it's easy to pop in and check the next thing off the list of my daily tasks. If I do decide that I want to work in another room, the bulk of the things I need are in that rolling cart, which is now out of my bedroom and has a spot, so that's win. The tablecloth on the top of the desk I got after Christmas at Walmart for $2.50, I actually bought two, and I just love them. Pretty, but functional.  And as for that bulletin board, that's a fun story. I had just taken a video the day before to show my husband what I had done with this room, and I mentioned in that video that this big space above the desk really needed a bulletin board and that I was going to be on the look out at the thrift store for one. The very-next-day, I was walking to the dumpster with our trash, which I saw an elderly gentlemen walking to the dumpster as well, and he had this bulletin board under one arm. He totes his trash bags on a little wagon that he pulls, and he asked me if I wanted to throw mine on and he would take it the rest of the way for me, and that was when I realized that he was going to throw the bulletin board away! I asked him if he was, just to be sure, and he said yes. He had bought it at a thrift store himself, and decided it was too big, so I asked him if I could buy it from him, and he wouldn't hear of it. Said it was bulky to carry and would save him having to lug it all the way, so he insisted that I take it, and let him take my trash, as well! Such a blessing, and of course, it was the PERFECT size for this space. It is big, and I don't think I'll ever be able to fill it all up, but that's ok. It made a very large white wall look a little more balanced, and that was the goal. Or course, after I hung it up I realized that I wanted to paint the trim black, but rather than take it down, I think I'll tape around it and paint in right on the wall, or . . . I might just live with it!

Other than that there is only one other space in front of the window where I have a small table and two little plastic storage bins on each side, but because they sit directly in front of the window, I couldn't get a good picture of them. They hold a bunch of this and that, as well as the few plants that I am able to have in this apartment. We don't have a balcony, and not many windows that get a lot sun, but the small window in this room, does, so that's where I keep my Norfolk pine which I've had for two years now and is still going strong, and then in the spring I might plant some mint in a few little pots, it should do well in that sunny window.

And that's it. I would like a rug for this room, but once again, not knowing where we will be come summer, I'm not willing to fork out a lot of money for it. I'm hoping to find a good used one at a thrift store, or even at the dumpster, which is where I was lucky enough to find a brand new one that someone had thrown out that is currently in the family room. In many ways I'm just trusting God for what I would like to have in this room, He knows the future and I do not. I may not even have a room that I can dedicate to such when we move, if we move, who knows, time will tell. For now I'm enjoying what I have and holding it all very loosely.

So if you've stuck with me this far, I applaud you. I'm sure for some of you this was quite boring, but I always like seeing the ways that other people re-purpose and use what they have to make cozy spaces in their homes, so that was my objective for this post.

And now friends, I am off. They are calling for a significant amount of snow here this weekend, which I'm looking forward to, but I do hope we don't lose power.  So, barring that, I'll be back again next week! Have a warm and cozy, weekend, my friends!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

And Now Let Us Welcome The New Year

"And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been."

- RAINER MARIA RILKE

It really wasn't my intention to take a three week, plus or minus a few days, break. My original plan was to be back right after the New Year, but then . . . it snowed on January 3. Not much really, just 6", but it was a wet, heavy snow and it stuck around for several days. Something about the snow on the ground and my own tendencies to hibernate and before I knew it we were nearing the middle of January. But to be honest, I think I needed it. I haven't posted much on social media, either, and it's been nice.

We had a lovely Christmas and a nice, slow start to the new year. In the week between and the weeks after, I've done a lot of "puttering", one of my favorite things to do. The kind of work that you don't do all the time, and is really housework, but the fun kind, like transforming a storage room into a multi-purpose storage/office/craft room. I actually started work on that the day that it snowed, and I've been tweaking it here and there ever since, which reminds me that I need to take some pictures of it, so those details will have to wait for another day.

I've also been doing a bit of crafting, mostly cross-stitching, and finishing up a gift box for my aunt. We exchange gifts every year at Christmas, always with hand made items and it's one of my favorite gifts! We have a lot of the same preferences in colors and styles, so it makes not only receiving the gift, but putting it together a lot of fun.  We were a little late sending them out this year, and then with the snow last week (it snowed again on Thursday), things got delayed a bit more on my end. Thankfully I was finally able to get it shipped off yesterday and her gift to me is due to arrive this week, so I'm anxiously awaiting it!

The picture to the left here is of a huge pallet I made for myself over New Year's weekend. It was super cushy, and comfy and I spent the greater part of New Years Eve and day there watching the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, which is a years old tradition in our family. It was just me this year, but I still loved every minute of it. With that, and surrounded by my books and journals and with plenty of good food to eat, it was a perfectly lovely way to begin the new year.

Yesterday I finally got around to updating my files for the year and throwing out a lot of old ones that were no longer needed, which always feels nice. The tree is still up along with all the other decorations. My original plan was to take them down and pack them away yesterday, but my daughter was off and is again today, so it looks like maybe tomorrow. I'm actually considering leaving the tree up and moving it into my office, primarily because I want to make a number of new ornaments for it this year and it will just be easier to get everything exactly the way I want it if its still up. That room is where all the Christmas decor will be stored anyway, so in some ways it makes sense. I'm also one of those crazy people who has no problem with the idea of it staying up all year, especially since it's in my office/craft room and not in the main part of the house. I won't keep it lit, just now and then, maybe if we have another snow day. The picture to the right here is of some holly that I cut from a huge holly tree that grows not far from our apartment building. I also cut a few sprigs of white pine and made a pretty arrangement for my desk in my office.

As I said, just a lot of "puttering", for the most part. I did get back to more of a routine yesterday, going back to my regular housekeeping schedule, which I'd been a little lax on over the holidays (intentionally). I still cleaned, of course, just not following a rhythm and not being quite as meticulous as I typically am. 

And now I'm back and ready to resume posting here again, and I have so much I want to share with you! I sat down for a couple of hours yesterday and looked over my spreadsheet of ideas for posts, and I've got several that I'm working on as we speak! But for this week, I'm going to start back slow, just sharing the routine happenings of my life. I'll try to take some pictures of my renovated office/craft room today and see if I can get that up tomorrow, if you're even interested! Some might consider my style of blogging a bit old fashioned, but personally, those are the types of blogs I still tend to follow and enjoy! When we shared and inspired one another just for the sake of sharing, so I hope you appreciate my small offering.

And now my friends, I'll sign off for now. I hope you have a blessed evening!