Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday five for January 17

Another Friday!  Time for another edition of Friday five.  Here we go:

1.  Warm wood heat on cold and snowy days.  Yesterday was a snow day; today it's frigid and windy.  We have a wood furnace (forced hot air) in the basement that brings heat to all the rooms via vents and ductwork, and a new-to-us soapstone stove in the kitchen that warms that area really well.  The only downside is that I don't enjoy tending these fires.  Wood is heavy and dirty,  and I'm not an expert at keeping fires going in these heat sources.  However, I'm thankful!
As you can see, the "feels like" temperature is 11 below zero at noon!

2.  Breakfast out on Saturday at a favorite place.  We hadn't been there in awhile and someone gave my hubby a gift card for his retirement.  What a treat!  We ended up bringing half of our meals home and enjoyed them for breakfast on Sunday!

3.  Finally getting to have "Christmas" with our oldest teen granddaughters on Sunday night.  We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve Soup and I baked a couple of frozen pizzas to go along with it.  For dessert, what else but a cookie and fudge tray?  'Tis the season!  I used my new tray (below) to put the cookies and fudge on, since it was not a large group around the table.  This held plenty of treats!

4.  Supper and a little Bible study with fellow believers on Saturday night!  Fellowship and Bible study never gets old ... nor should it!  Our friend Jennifer prepared baked macaroni and cheese and a bountiful garden salad along with biscuits, and another friend brought a lovely pie.  The food was great but the fellowship was even better.

5.  Good walking weather at the beginning of the week.  It gradually deteriorated -- decent roads Monday and Tuesday, slushy and partially snow-covered on Wednesday, and then Thursday snowing like crazy and today cold and windy.  Thankful we could walk for the first three days, at least.  I know that my friend Marilyn from Mountain Top Spice would probably go out in this, but I can't take below-zero wind chills any more myself.

How about sharing one blessing (or five) from your own week?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Diligence: my word for 2020

I understand that it's not a necessity to choose a word to focus on for a new year.  It's not in any way a practice that makes one any more spiritual, any more committed, or any more anything.  Vast numbers of believers don't choose a word to focus on, nor do they need to.  I didn't even think of doing such a thing until 2013.  I'd read in the past of others doing so and in 2013 I prayerfully considered it for myself.  That year I ended up with the word "Purpose".  I found it incredibly helpful throughout the year to focus on God's purposes for me.

Each year since, I have prayerfully chosen a word for the year.  Some times it has seemed as if God laid a particular word on my heart, and that has truly been the case this year.   He has impressed upon me without any doubt that my word for 2020 is to be diligence.  The word came instantly, even before the end of the old year.  But sorting out my thoughts concerning it has taken longer.

A dictionary definition of diligence sounds like a good place to start.  My very vintage Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as: "Quality of being diligent; persevering application."  From there, of course, it becomes necessary to look up the word "diligent".  This dictionary says that diligent means "Perseveringly attentive; industrious with careful attention; painstaking."

The much newer dictionary on my computer desktop defines diligence as "careful and persistent work or effort".

Sally Clarkson says, "Diligence is the energy, the inner will of determination to keep going, that provides the power to overcome in life."

I have felt strongly the need to become more diligent in the coming year, in many areas of life.  Health is a big one.  I want to be much more diligent about eating properly, specifically to work on avoiding foods that contribute to inflammation.  I need to be more diligent with my water intake and with exercise.

Homemaking is another area where I must become more diligent.  Cleaning out my childhood home has impressed upon me strongly that I don't want my adult children doing this task when I'm gone.  They would be thoroughly disgusted (with good reason) that I had let things get so cluttered and that I had kept so many things.  With my hubby's retirement, he is insisting that he will get involved and help me with homemaking tasks so that the two of us will have more free time to do things together.   So, as soon as possible, we will begin with one room at a time, deep cleaning, decluttering, and taking many trips to the dump and thrift store.

My trust responsibilities dictate cleaning out a house and outbuildings and selling, donating, or trashing the contents.  Although I've worked hard at this task and have accomplished a lot, fresh diligence is required.  With Mr. T helping me, we believe we can knock this task out in a couple of months.  As another part of this process, I also need fresh diligence for listing items in my Etsy shop.  There are still hundreds more of them to list!

Scripture memory is another area that needs more diligence on my part.  I've memorized (and retained) a lot of Scripture in the past, but that is no reason not to work at memorizing more.  As a church, we work together to memorize a short passage each month, and that is great, but I need to get myself organized to learn more Scripture on my own.

Careful spending is something else I need to become more diligent about.   If you've read here enough to get to know me a bit, you know that I am not a "shop till you drop" type of person.  I will go to great lengths to avoid a shopping trip.  I've found, though, that shopping online makes it easier to spend more than I intend.  That said, I do seek out bargains and I buy most of my books, even for gifts, on Thriftbooks.  But the spending I'm thinking most about in my need to be diligent is the weekly grocery shopping.  I've gotten rather careless over time, just buying things that are convenient like pre-cut pineapple and melon rather than doing it myself.  Our local grocery store does offer a great program where one can get 2% back quarterly on purchasing their store brands.  Last week, I saved $25 on the week's groceries because I got my quarterly rewards and also a coupon (through the same program) for $11 off on $100.  Plus, I had some other coupons, both clipped and digital.  My hubby is good about finding deals to save money at CVS, and in fact has saved over $200 there in 2019.  So we're off to a good start here!

In considering diligence,  I turned to Elizabeth George's book Small Changes for a Better Life.  She offers some great motivators for diligence, as well as some very helpful tips for becoming more diligent.  I'll share a quick quote after each one.

First, some motivators for diligence:

* Awareness of the brevity of life
There are no guarantees on the length of our lives.  "We need to seize each and every day ... and put the most into each 24 hours.  We must do as much as we can, love our families as much as we can, help as many people as we can, give as much as we can in each precious sunrise-to-sunset parcel of life ... Let your awareness of the brevity of life be a driving force."

* Awareness of the purpose of life
  "When we realize that we were made by God and for God, and that God has a purpose for each of our lives, we don't live with 'self' in mind.  We instead begin living each day ... for the Lord.  There's a new energy, a new direction, a  new diligence, a serious soberness."

* Awareness of stewardship
"God intends us to manage our time and our lives for Him and to use them for His purposes.  He intends that we live out His plan for us.  That means God expects each of us to be a good steward of the life He entrusts us with ... Seek to live each day with stewardship in mind for that one day.  This mindset stimulates daily diligence.

* Awareness of time
"Diligence simply means pursuing a fruitful pace of life from start to finish as you purposefully move through the peaks and valleys, the ebb and flow, the springs, summers, and winters of your life."

As someone who just celebrated a big birthday, I am more aware than ever of the brevity of life and the passing of time.  This has surely motivated me to greater diligence and may even be a reason I felt led to choose that particular word.

Second, some tips for becoming more diligent: 

* Write out and memorize Colossians 3:23-24. 
* Evaluate the peaks and valleys of your days and plan for using them wisely.
* Consider each day in the light of stewardship.
* Read a chapter of Proverbs each day and take special note of any teaching on diligence.
* At the end of each week, evaluate your diligence and plan for any necessary improvements.

I'm keeping this information at my fingertips for this year.  I'm sure I'll need plenty of tips and motivation for diligence as the year speeds by!

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men,
"Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ."  
Colossians 3:23-24

Monday, January 13, 2020

Goals for 2020

Beautiful graphic by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
I've heard a lot this new year about 20/20 vision in 2020.  I desire to look at the year just past with clarity and honesty (and have done that in a couple of posts about reflecting on 2019).  I've taken a hard look at my own life, noting areas in which I need to grow and change.  And I have a vision for how my life could be in 2020;  I desire to look to the year ahead with eyes of faith, knowing that God's compassions are new every morning and that His faithfulness is great indeed.  Although I've not put together a blog post on the topic yet, my word for 2020 is going to be Diligence.

My goals for 2020 really don't look a lot different than my goals for 2019; in fact, I've copied and pasted many of them from last year.  The major difference will be that I hope to be more diligent and to accomplish more of these goals, staying closer to God and following through on more of my plans.  Here goes:
Personal growth (I included both spiritual and intellectual growth, as well as character development, in this category): Work on character qualities of unselfishness, kindness, compassion, perseverance, graciousness, and self-control.  Work at eliminating the time-wasting habit of procrastination.  Stay off Instagram until afternoon.  Read, study, journal, and meditate on God's Word daily.  Start to memorize Scripture in a much more organized way.  As time allows, add to my "What do I know about my God?" Scripture notebook.  Attend a couples' retreat with my hubby and a ladies' retreat or two on my own.  Read and study at least 6 books.  Nurture creativity.

Health (includes physical, mental, and emotional health):  Exercise at least five times per week.  Get enough water, sleep, fresh air, and sunshine.  Cook and eat with health in mind.  Do something creative or craft-related every day.  Journal and write as often as possible.  Continually cultivate the habit of gratitude.  Continually seek to be joyful and to keep my eyes open daily for the little things that make each day special.  Find moments of relaxation with my husband as often as possible.
Marriage/family life (includes homemaking): Plan periodic getaways.  Take the best possible care of my husband and help him in every way possible.  Aim to be a blessing to him as we spend more time together in his retirement.  Take advantage of every moment together.  Take time for dates.  Plan fun activities with nearby grandchildren. and a trip out west with our two oldest granddaughters.  Minister to my husband  and others with the gift of a peaceful, orderly home by decluttering the entire house and implementing effective homemaking routines.  Stay in good touch with faraway family by regular phone calls, emailing, writing, Skyping, and sending packages.
Money matters:  Spend less on groceries on a weekly basis.  (This is off to a great start in 2020!)  Continue listing and selling small vintage items in my Etsy shop, A New Hampshire Attic.  Pray about eventually making items to sell at craft fairs or on Etsy.  Consider doing some writing for paying publication.  Prayerfully fulfill my trust responsibilities, seeking God's continual guidance in them.
Relationships outside the home:  Be more of an encouragement to my daughters, friends, and the ladies in my Sunday School class.  Stay in better touch with faraway friends and family.  Make myself available to help and encourage those who are nearby.  Continue blogging as a means of encouraging other ladies; take advantage of opportunities to meet fellow bloggers.  Work harder at cultivating extended family relationships, staying in touch with and spending time with my cousins more often.
Ministry:  Deepen my prayer life, praying regularly for those with deep needs, praying daily for our pastoral search.  Continue working on and teaching the study A Woman who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.  Continue cleaning the church with my hubby once or twice per month and providing Sunday coffee break snacks once per month.  Minister to others with hospitality as the opportunities arise.  Continue our informal ministry of fellowship and mentoring with younger friends. 
Have you set goals for 2020 yet?  I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do find it very helpful to consider and set goals for a new year.  You can find further inspiration on this Pinterest board of mine: A new year, a fresh start.  Happy New Year, and happy goal setting!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday five for January 10

Friday again, and what do I have to show for it?  It seems as if this has been somewhat of a "blah" week, and yet I have many blessings to be thankful for:

1.  Though far from perfect (cluttered background), the photo at top makes my heart sing every time I look at it.  It represents so many delights: a sweet table runner I carved out time to sew a few years back using Christmas fabrics from my stash; an ironstone pitcher from the family heirloom set I am blessed to own; and sprigs of pine from our own acreage and winterberries gathered on a walk.  The berries are drying out and getting wrinkled, but this arrangement is still on the table.  (It will be leaving soon, though.)  Below is a photo of the runner back when I first finished it.

2.  A nice afternoon and evening last Saturday.  Our dear friends Sam and Jenn came for supper and a Bible study in the evening.  During the afternoon, we took a quick trip to the neighboring town so that our son-in-law Jim could cut Mr. T's hair.  (He's handy like that.)  We took a bit of extra time to play a game with the grandkids.  The photo below is NOT of that game; it's from Thanksgiving and is a different game altogether.

3.  A wonderful New Year's message from Pastor Anglea, our pulpit supply on Sunday; titled "Unto the End", it really encouraged us to keep on keeping on.  In other New Year news, I was able to complete a Shutterfly calendar the other day to take advantage of a free offer.  Below is a screenshot of July's page.  I put this calendar together in quite a hurry, but it still came out quite well.

4.  Several nice days this week so we were able to get out and walk.  The time of day had to vary a bit due to other commitments, but the weather was doable each time.  Even on Monday when we were walking in snow flurries!  Photo below is from 2018 but looks much the same right now.

5.  A bit of creativity in the kitchen this morning.  I've had a container of this Bran Muffin Batter in the fridge ever since we made my mother-in-law's muffins on Christmas morning.  I wanted to bake the muffins before the batter went bad (it's supposed to keep 6 weeks, but it usually doesn't last more than a month) but I wanted to bake a variety of muffins.  I put a teaspoon of strawberry jam in each muffin cup for the first dozen.  For the second dozen, I added some dried cranberries and some chopped toasted walnuts to the batter.  Had just a bit too much batter, so baked some in a small loaf pan.

And that is this week's Friday five!  What blessings can you thank God for today?

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Reflecting on 2019, Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, it always helps me to clarify my thinking in planning for a new year, if I can take an honest overall look at the year just past.  Here are some links to questions I've used to do this in previous years:

Four Questions to Evaluate Your Walk with God for the New Year

31 Questions for the New Year

And also the ten questions below, from Holley Gerth:

Any of these would be super helpful to anyone wanting to reflect on the year just past, or to consider how they want 2020 to look.

This year I decided to do something different and use A New Year’s Perspective from Denise Cunningham.  There are ten questions and so far I have answered five of them, so I'll begin with question 6 today.  I'll put my answers in a different color and font.

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 6.  What did I read last year?
I didn't keep track of what I read last year.  (Pathetic, I know.  I'll definitely plan to keep a list in 2020.  In fact, I've already finished a couple of books I started in December, so I can start my list right away.)  I think nearly all of the fiction I read, with maybe one exception, was by Jamie Langston Turner and were books I was re-reading.  I prefer Christian fiction when I read fiction, but am extremely picky about it.  So I tend to re-read authors that I really like.

As for nonfiction, I dipped into a number of books, but sad to say I didn't finish even one of them.  Here are some of the books I read in: The Fringe Hours, by Jessica Turner; Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, by Paul David Tripp; Make Room for What You Love and Love the Home You Have, both by Melissa Michaels; An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler; and Venturing with God in Congo, by Darrell Champlin.  I'm sure there were more, but those were probably the ones I spent the most time in.

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7.  Did I spend too much time on social media, television or videos (You Tube, Netflix)? Do I need to set limits for myself?
 I watched almost no TV (only a few minutes here and there on getaways)and only a few videos.  I do think I need to set limits for myself regarding Instagram.  What works well for me is not to look at Instagram before lunch.

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 8.  What creative outlets did I enjoy?
  I've learned that I am a person who needs to do something creative every day.  (Here is a link to a post I wrote about this topic back in 2010, and it's still true for me: Living in the Light of Creativity.)

Sometimes cooking and baking are creative outlets for me.  (Not always, though!) Throughout the year I did a bit of crafting here and there -- crocheting, sewing, cross-stitch -- and enjoyed that, though I never have as much time for crafting as I would like.  I find writing and blogging to be a creative outlet.  I also enjoy creating photo gifts with Shutterfly.  Books and calendars, in particular, require a good bit of creativity.  All of this helps with my goal to do something creative every day.  I've also found that even finding a new way to do a task, or figuring out a creative solution to a problem, scratches the creative itch.

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9.  Did I get enough exercise?  What could help motivate me to do more?
      I did get a lot of exercise last year, walking for an hour most days each week, even during winter other than some really icy days when it wouldn't have been safe or wise.  But I do feel that I need to get more exercise, especially on days when the weather or footing isn't good for walking.  I think one motivation will be having my husband home more.  Another potential motivation could be using a fitness tracker.

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10.  What area of my life brought the most joy?  The most frustration?
What brought the most joy?  Hospitality; reconnecting with old friends; conversation with my daughters and Jennifer; discipleship Bible studies; time with family; blogging; creating.

What brought the most frustration?  Housework, paperwork, and time management. Household tasks that won't stay done for more than half a day are an ongoing source of frustration for me.  Same thing with bills.  (My hubby does our finances, but I do the ones for my dad's place and trust.) I like to pay the bills when they arrive, because if I wait until I have several to pay at once, I tend to forget about them.  But if I pay a bill right when it arrives, it seems as if another arrives just a day or two later and I have to haul everything out again.  Maybe I frustrate too easily! 

Denise suggests, "These would be some great questions to pray about and later to ask your spouse or a close friend.  Some good discussion and accountability could follow!" 

She adds, "Enjoy the...  fresh New Year before you.  It has some wonderful opportunities to witness what God can and will do through you!"

And I wholeheartedly agree!

Monday, January 06, 2020

Reflecting on 2019, Part 1

(The photo above is from a previous winter, but I saw nearly this exact scene on my walk this morning.  The only difference is that today the field had a little more snow on it.)

And now ... to the topic at hand.  I tend to vary the ways I reflect on the years just past, but I do think it's a good idea to do so in some fashion.  It helps me, anyway, to clarify my thinking in planning for a new year.  Here are some links to questions I've used in the past:
Four Questions to Evaluate Your Walk with God for the New Year
31 Questions for the New Year
And also the ten questions below, from Holley Gerth:

Any of these would be super helpful to anyone wanting to reflect on the year just past, or to consider how they want 2020 to look. 

This year I decided to do something different and  use A New Year’s Perspective from Denise Cunningham.  There are ten questions and so far I have answered five of them.  I'll put my answers in a different color and font.

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 What hindered my spiritual growth last year?  What moved it forward?

I think the only thing that may have hindered my spiritual growth (although I must add that it didn't feel hindered at all)was that I didn't memorize as much Scripture and I didn't memorize as consistently as I have sometimes done.  That said, however, I definitely did see spiritual growth last year.  I just wonder if I would have seen more if I'd memorized more faithfully.

As far as what moved my spiritual growth forward, one big thing was that my husband and I have been discipling a couple who seriously want to grow in their walk with God.  That has encouraged us so much!  Attending a couples' retreat and, for me, a ladies' retreat, helped also, as did seeking to apply what I was learning.  Also, the more time I spent in the Bible, the more I grew.
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    What did God teach me last year?

One of the main things He taught me was that in spite of my tiredness, sometimes verging on exhaustion, He would give me the energy needed for ministry as I looked to Him.  Whether it was hospitality, teaching, or cleaning the church, the necessary strength and energy were there as needed.  I felt I learned more fully than ever that God's commands are His enablements.  

I also felt that I learned in a deeper way that we can trust God no matter how a situation may look.  He is always good, He always has a purpose in what He allows to touch our lives, and He is always in control.  Another thing He taught me (and gave me a burden for, in the process) is that not all believers understand these rich, yet basic truths about God.
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    What did I see God do in answer to my prayers last year?
Many, many things.  Too many to specifically list them all.  I think I saw answered prayer the most in simple, everyday matters as I definitely saw God answer many of my prayers for wisdom, and prayers asking Him to help me grow and change in many areas of life.
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    To whom did I give my life the most?  Does this need to change?
First and foremost, I give my life to God.  My husband and family come next, then others.  I invested myself in my Sunday School class, the ladies who read my blogs, and those we are discipling.  I think that there's a pretty good balance in this area, and that probably nothing needs to change.
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    What activities did I participate in that I need to repeat this year?
Discipling younger believers, showing hospitality, teaching Sunday School, cleaning the church, family activities, daily walks with a friend.
Which activities should I consider removing from my schedule?
 Hmmm ... good question.  I do think I will take Instagram off the schedule until afternoon each day.  I don't really know of anything else I should consider removing, but I trust that God will show me  if there is something that should go.

So there are some of my thoughts as I reflect on 2019.  What about you?

Friday, January 03, 2020

Friday five for January 3

Wow --  the first Friday five of a new month, a new year, and a new decade!  It's good to start all of those off with praise to the Lord for some of His blessings.

Don't you love the scene above?  It's a scan of a Christmas card front.  The winter scene is by an artist named James Cox, just to give credit where credit is due.  I think it's absolutely gorgeous and it reminds me of scenes we often see on our walks during the winter.  Brooks not frozen over yet and still rushing along through the landscape, pretty birch trees and evergreens amid a snow-covered landscape, and the brilliance of winterberries adding a welcome touch of scarlet color to the scene.  I so wish that I could paint!

But on to the Friday five ...

1.  A brief but lovely chat with our Nevada daughter on her birthday, the 27th.  Her youngest daughter's birthday party had been put off from the 12th due to illness, so they were celebrating together on Friday.  Joanna was decorating the cake when we called to sing our birthday wishes to her.  Below is a photo she sent us from their Christmas tree-cutting this year.  Note all of the yarny Viking details.  You may want to double click on this one!

2.  A simple coffee date on Saturday afternoon, followed by a little after-Christmas shopping at Marshalls.    Below you see a few of the deals we found -- a gorgeous red cookie sheet ($5!), two pretty mugs that will make perfect gifts, and a roll of striped wrapping paper.

3.  A good visit with our friend Terry on Sunday.  Although she is not in good health at all, God gave her the strength to prepare a lovely Christmas dinner for her kids and grandson.   What a blessing, and what great memories they will all have!

4. A few low-key days with time to do some blogging, catch up on a few simple tasks, and do lots of laundry.  Once my almost-retired hubby finally stops working (in another week), we are going to dive into house-emptying at my childhood home with a vengeance.  So I'm thankful for some quiet days to catch my breath.
5.  Time for a nice long walk yesterday.  Although it was cloudy, some sun peeked through,  the temps were mild (in the 30s) and there was no wind to speak of.  It was very pleasant for walking.

Happy Friday, everyone!  Enjoy your weekend!