Friday, January 31, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 10

This lovely graphic is by Little Birdie Blessings
I've just concluded my second five-day week of doing the Intentionally Focused Bible study from Good Morning Girls.  The weekends are not included in this particular study, so I've been doing something else on weekend mornings, and may share some of that at a later time.

But this Intentionally Focused study ... well, I just have to say that it is exactly what I needed to begin this new year.  I think that in some areas I've been getting just a little bit "weary in well doing"-- something the Bible warns against in Galatians 6:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:13 -- and this study is helping me to get my focus back where it belongs.

As I mentioned, I've been doing the study on my own, just reading the Scriptures in the reading plan and using the SOAP method of meditating on the specified verses for each day.  I do look at the emails from Good Morning Girls and am benefiting from them, but seldom read them before I've done my own study for the day.  I just have to say how excited I am about the things God is showing me and reminding me of.  I would blog about my study every day but I don't want to overdo a good thing.  I may go back later and just post a few more of the daily studies, but for now I'll probably stick to posting about it weekly.

Anyway, my study this morning was so encouraging that I just had to share it with you all.  Here goes:

S [Scripture]= "Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee.
"Thus will I bless Thee while I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name.
"My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips."  (Psalm 63:3-5)

O [Observation]= This Psalm is titled "A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah."  My Bible gives a cross-reference of 1 Samuel 23:14, which reveals: "And David abode in the wilderness in strongholds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph.  And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand."  [Wow!  Did you catch that?]  And apparently it was in this same time frame that "Jonathan, Saul's son, arose, and went to David into the forest, and strengthened his hand in God."  Could this psalm have been the result of that encouragement?  This psalm certainly takes on fresh meaning when we consider the backdrop against which it was written.

David says that God's loving-kindness is better than life.  Because this is so, David will praise God with joyful lips.  He will bless God while he lives, lifting up his hands in God's name.  His soul is fully satisfied even though he's living in daily difficulties -- even in near impossibilities.  As David said in another place, "there is but a step between me and death."  (1 Samuel 20:3)

A [Application]= Wow, does this ever apply to me!  My situation as a very busy member of the "sandwich generation" can be challenging at times, but it is minor compared to the situation David was living in.  May I always remember, no matter what, that God's lovingkindness is better than life!  My soul finds its satisfaction in Him, no matter what my daily circumstances may include.  I can say with certainty that I have found this to be true in my life.  Regardless of the circumstances, I can joyfully praise God!

P [Prayer]= "Lord, how I thank You for the blessing and the instruction that Your Word is in our lives.  I praise You that your lovingkindness is better than life.  I praise You that regardless of my circumstances, my soul finds its full satisfaction in You, and I can experience daily joy.  Help me every day to look to You and not my circumstances, remembering that You are in control and that You are working all things after the counsel of Your own will.  I thank You for all that You are doing, and all that You will do.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

So that was my study for today.  I hope that it will encourage someone else as much as it encouraged me.  If you are interested in getting the information you would need to do this study on your own, it's not too late.  You simply need to go to Good Morning Girls and sign up for their emails.  The study material is free and you can click on the link at the bottom of the email to download the study guide and the reading plan.  Even though the study has been going for 2 weeks already, if you plan to do this on your own you can certainly work at your own pace.  You don't need to keep up with anyone.  God will bless you abundantly through your own personal study as you dig into His Word on your own!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A nice slow cooker beef roast

Photo by Taste of Home
I've been trying to buy very little meat recently.  We don't eat a lot of meat anyway, but do have several meals which include meat in the course of a week (at least one for the church potluck and one for a family meal on Saturday night).  So I've been trying to use up what's in the freezer.  At this point I think we are down to 2 packages of bacon (we use a half package for five of us most Sundays with homemade waffles; other weeks I make homemade sausage); 1 ham; and 2 chickens.  All that to say that last week, I decided to cook a small beef roast I had found in there.

I wanted to use the slow cooker to free up more of my day, and in looking through a December back issue of Country Woman magazine (the same one where I found all those great cookie recipes I've been posting about in Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen), I saw a recipe that looked promising.  It's called Burgundy Beef, which may explain why I hadn't noticed it before.  In looking over the recipe, I found it called for very little burgundy (a quarter cup) and also noted that beef broth could be substituted.  Usually when a recipe calls for red wine, I use cranberry juice instead, so that's what I decided to do.  I didn't have any mushrooms on hand, but decided to substitute sliced onions.  I also didn't want to serve the dish over noodles, so I peeled and quartered 5 or 6 small potatoes and added them to the cooker with everything else.

This turned out really well and the gravy had fantastic flavor.  Mr. T says we must have this again when we find a small beef pot roast in the reduced meat selection.  Your family might enjoy it too -- it's a hearty, comforting meal on a cold winter day.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Curried Squash Soup

From my collection of vintage cookbooklets
 Recently I tried out a delicious and very easy squash soup recipe and decided to share it with all of you.  This is from the December 2011 issue of Cook & Tell, a wonderful newsletter which was one of my favorite recipe sources.  Sadly, its creator, Karyl Bannister of Southport, Maine, has decided to cease publication.  So I'm sure she won't mind if I share this recipe, submitted by Cook & Tell subscriber Mary DiMascio, with all of you.    Here it is:

12-ounce package of frozen squash
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon chicken broth powder (I used an equal amount of Better Than Bouillon soup base)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste (I needed a bit more.  Frozen squash is completely salt-free.)
Pepper optional (I thought it was necessary)

Microwave the squash according to package directions.  Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the broth powder, and simmer a couple of minutes.  Add the cooked squash to the broth in the saucepan, whisking gently to blend, until silky.  Add the curry powder, salt and pepper.  Serve piping hot.  Fills about 4 medium mugs or 2 bowls.

I doubled the recipe, but only used 3/4 tsp. curry powder because I just wasn't sure.  It turned out to be just right for my taste.  I also added the curry powder along with the broth powder to the water (rather than adding it at the end) because I think it benefits from a little pre-heating, so to speak.  One could easily substitute 1 cup chicken broth for the water and broth powder if you happened to have some on hand.

This is a fantastic soup, especially on a cold winter night, and so easy!  Karyl advised, and I concur, "Keep a box of frozen squash in the freezer at all times."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 3

Antique card from my personal collection
I mentioned earlier how I would be doing the "Intentionally Focused" Bible study from Good Morning Girls on my own.  I'm simply following their reading plan and using the SOAP method of meditating on the verses, which I find a real blessing.  I enjoyed my study so much yesterday that I thought I would share it with all of you.

S [Scripture] = "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let  us run with patience the race that is set before us."  (Hebrews 12:1)

O [Observation] = Chapter 11, immediately preceding this, lists countless examples of heroes of faith.  Their lives are a witness to us of how people of faith conduct themselves.  Because of this, we need to lay aside every weight, and the sins that beset us so easily, and run our Christian race with patience.  It's interesting to me to see that we need to run the race "that is set before us".  To me this implies: 1) that every believer's course is a little bit different (although the rules of the race do not differ); and 2) that God has set our course before us and it is exactly the course that is necessary for our optimum usefulness to Him and others.

A [Application] = Oh, so many weights and sins to lay aside!  The longer I live and the older I grow in my Christian life, the more aware I become of how far I still have to go in my spiritual growth.  The course of my race has included some painful difficulties, but it has also been a life of luxuries when compared to many others.  I'm thankful that God is the Designer of our course and that He has a purpose for each steep hill, each twist and turn along the way.  May I continually seek to lay aside the things that would hinder me and to run my race with patience, in a way that glorifies Him.

P [Prayer] = "Lord, how I thank You that You are the Author and Finisher of my faith!  You are also the Designer of my race course, and You've designed it as a marathon rather than as a sprint or a dash.  You've designed my course in such a way that it has the potential to bring maximum glory to You, if I will run it unencumbered and with patient endurance.  I cannot do this on my own.  I need Your wisdom to recognize the weights and sins that must be laid aside, and I need Your strength to firmly carry out that action.  Help me to run my race with courage and endurance, looking to You and not at the obstacles and difficulties that surround me.  Help me to be a blessing and an encouragement to others along the way as I seek to run this race in a way that glorifies You.  I thank and praise You for all you will do.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

If you are interested in further study on this particular topic of running our race unencumbered, I highly recommend Cynthia Heald's book Becoming a Woman of Freedom.  Every chapter deals with a weight we need to lay aside, and offers something positive to run with instead.  It's been a great encouragement to me, and one of those books I refer back to again and again!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More answered questions

Scan of a card from my personal collection
As I mentioned yesterday, I've finally been able to answer most of the 31 Questions for the New Year from Revive our Hearts.  I still have five to go and am not sure they'll get answered this month, but I'm thinking and praying about how to answer them.  Here are the answered ones that I haven't previously shared:

11.  What's the most important decision you need to make this year?  What to do about replacing our ailing family vehicle.  At least that's the most important decision as I see it now.  There could well be more important, or different, decisions that come up before year's end!

14.  What habit would you most like to establish this year?  Daily exercise.

15.  Who do you most want to encourage this year?  My children, my husband, my grandchildren, several good friends, and the ladies in my Sunday School class.

17.  What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?  If I could write -- either blogging or working on the kids' summer devotional book -- at least 5 days a week, that would be great.

18.  What's one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or another who ministers to you) this year?  I pray for my pastor 2 to 3 times a week.  I could up that to praying for him daily.

20.  What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?  Pilgrim's Progress.

21.  What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?  Getting away from regular exercise.  This year I have begun to re-establish that habit.
22.  What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?  Good health.

24.  What's the most important trip you want to take this year?  Probably to Nevada to visit family.  While there, we are praying about a trip to California to visit friends.

25.  What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?  Computer skills, with an eye to starting an Etsy shop or selling on eBay.

26.  To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?  The community closet thrift store and the local food pantry.  Also work on items through the year for the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

27.  What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?  Thankfully, I don't have to commute.  But if I did, I think what I would do to improve my commuting time would be to pray out loud while driving.  I've done this a few times and it really is a blessing to get in some extra prayer time.

29.  If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say?  Would they be right?  What will you do about it?  My husband -- who probably knows me best -- would (and does, regularly) give me a one-word piece of advice: "RELAX!"  I'm not sure if he's right or not, but he's at least partly right.  I think, "REST!" -- as in resting in the Lord, might be better advice, and might be more what he means to say.  As to what I will do about it -- try to really relax when I have the opportunity.  Be more "in the moment" rather than thinking about all that I have to do or where I need to go next.  Consciously practice leaving matters in God's hands, where they belong.

30.  What's the most important new item you want to buy this year?  It may not be new, but we need to find a newer car (ours will not pass another inspection) and most likely a new computer.

31,  In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?  The physical, without a doubt.  I am seeking to eat more healthfully, get more exercise, more water, and more sleep.

If you still have goal-setting questions to answer for the new year, why not take a crack at answering them now?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Question # 19

The beautiful graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings.
I mentioned in an earlier post a list of questions -- 31 Questions for the New Year -- which I had downloaded from Revive our Hearts.  I answered the first ten questions in that earlier post, but have still been thinking about the other 21.  In fact, there are still five that I haven't come up with answers for.

Question # 19 is one that I puzzled over for a few days.  It reads:
19.  What's one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?

I was at somewhat of a loss as to how to answer that.  I've made family Christmas books packed with memories, I've handwritten recipe books for my daughters, I even filled out one of those "Grandmother Remembers" types of books.   I've been able to lead two of my granddaughters to faith in Christ and have tried to encourage all of my children and grandchildren spiritually.  The best answer I could think of to question # 19 was to continue trying to grow spiritually strong so I could be a good example and encourager to them spiritually.  What else, I wondered, would the Lord have me to do concerning a spiritual legacy?

The answer to that question came in a surprising way.  My daughter in Nevada had their Christmas gifts for Mr. T and me shipped from Amazon to our local daughter, who wrapped the gifts and got them to us early in the new year.  When I opened my gift, I was stunned to see this book:The Power of a Godly Grandparent.  The book's authors are Stephen and Janet Bly, and its subtitle is Leaving a Spiritual Legacy!

I haven't finished reading this book all the way through yet, though it is relatively small (14 chapters, 166 pages), but what I have read has been so encouraging and so practical.  Some of the chapters include The Power of Loving Long Distance, The Power of Your Family History, The Power of Being There if Your Grandchildren's Parents Divorce, and The Power of Praying for Your Grandchildren.  That last one looks especially helpful, but every chapter I've looked at has been good.

Now I know why I hadn't yet come up with an answer to Question # 19.  The Lord knew that a book filled with practical answers to that question was on its way to me.

If you are a Christian grandparent, you will want to read this book.  You can find it in  the "Journey of Faith" section of my A-store here at my affiliate link: The Power of a Godly Grandparent.  Or you can go directly to Amazon or look at your local Christian bookstore.

Answers to 15 more questions may be forthcoming later today or tomorrow...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A retro recipe

From my collection of vintage cookbooklets
This week I had some leftover ham and wanted to make a simple scalloped potatoes with ham for my dad's meal (as well as our own supper that night).  I had cut leftover ham off the bone earlier and cut it in bite sized pieces, but didn't really have a specific recipe in mind.  I looked in a few cookbooks without seeing any good possibilities, and then finally, in desperation, turned to an old one I had bought at an antiques mall some years ago.

The book is Keep Cooking the Maine Way, by Marjorie Standish.   It was published in 1973, a followup to Mrs. Standish's earlier and very popular cookbook Cooking Down East.  For at least 25 years, she wrote a "Cooking Down East" column in the Maine Sunday Telegram.  I knew that this worthy lady would not let me down -- she was sure to have a tried and true recipe for scalloped ham and potatoes.  And she did!  Here it is:

5 cups thinly sliced pared raw potatoes
3 cups diced cooked ham
1 cup thinly sliced onions
3 cups thin white sauce (recipe follows)

Arrange potatoes, ham and onion in alternate layers in casserole.  (I used 2 layers of each and I used 2 casseroles as I was preparing this for 2 households.)  Pour the white sauce over all, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove cover and bake 30 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

3 tablespoons margarine
3 tablespoons flour (I used white rice flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (yes, this sounds like a lot, but it is the only salt in the recipe for all those potatoes)
Dash of black pepper (I used more like 1/4 teaspoon)
3 cups milk

Melt margarine over a low heat.  Stir in flour, salt, and pepper.  Add milk gradually; continue to stir and cook over a low heat until sauce thickens.

I didn't have enough potatoes, so I peeled and sliced a large sweet potato and layered that in as well.  It came out really well.

If you'd like to try a nice retro recipe with some leftover ham, I highly recommend this one.  Thank you, Mrs. Standish!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A random January post

It's hard to believe it was a week ago that I last posted.  I thought I was doing pretty well with staying current, but it doesn't take much to derail me.  (From nearly anything.)  I thought I'd just do a random January post to jot down a few happenings and thoughts.  And this will be random indeed.

Things have been busy with just everyday life, with a few extras thrown in like getting my dad to several appointments.  Everything seems to take longer in the icy cold of winter.

Speaking of which, the weather has been interesting, to say the least.  On Saturday, we had rain, freezing rain, and even some thunder and lightning.  In the early morning, I-93 was said to have been like a skating rink.  That night, some of the local roads were affected by black ice several different times.  Mr. T went to the church to take care of a flooding issue in the parking lot and encountered black ice and accidents both coming and going.  With all of the rain and some melting snow, rivers were threatened by ice jams and flooding.  This week, we had a day or two in the forties.  Today, it's been snowing lightly, just enough to add a frosted, powdered-sugar look to everything. 

I did decide not to post my weekly goals (at least for now); only monthly ones.  So far, I've been doing well with the goals I've set, and am very thankful for that. If anything changes and I feel the need to post goals weekly, I'll go back to that.

Monday I'm planning to start an "Intentionally Focused" 8-week Bible study offered by Good Morning Girls.  Mostly I will just be using the verses they suggest for my own study using the SOAP method of meditating on Scripture.  I've found this method to be most effective and really helps me to apply Scripture to my life.  I'm looking forward to this new study and think it will be a great tool to begin the new year in a focused way.  (As always, I am not offering a blanket endorsement of any sites or links I mention.  Please just browse and read with discernment.)
Oh help!  I can't remember where I got this graphic.  I think it was Little Birdie Blessings.
On my friend Susan's blog, By Grace, I found links to several reading challenges for the new year.  I know it's important to be a reader, and I truly admire people who can do this, but I have trouble finding time to read (other than the Bible, and study books I'm using).  I used to be an omnivorous reader, but in the past few years I've read very little fiction and comparatively few nonfiction books.  I probably read 3 or 4 books a year for our ladies' Sunday School class, and maybe -- possibly -- a dozen more books over the course of a year.  I was just thinking, this morning, how very few classics I've actually read -- for example, almost none of Dickens other than A Christmas Carol, and I think I did read (or was supposed to read, anyway) David Copperfield in high school.  Maybe I can make that my personal reading challenge -- to read one or two classics each year.  It won't be much, but it's a start.

Our Christmas trees are both still up (and we are still enjoying their cheerful glow!) and quite a few of our Christmas decorations are still in place.  I need to try and change that out this weekend.  There'll still be lots of white lights, snowflakes, and icicles about, along with some snowmen, because we seem to need sparkly, glittery things around to get us through the rest of the long winter up here.  I do, anyway.  I guess I can't really speak for my fellow New Englanders.
These fellows will be out and about soon on my hutch.

And I'll see if my frosty candles survived to use again this year.

More hutch decor-to-be
This tablecloth and centerpiece will likely make an appearance, too.
On the topic of Christmas, I must admit that I still have several Christmas gifts to finish crafting.  Time got away from me, and I overestimated the amount of time that I had, which so often happens.    Phrases like, "Oh, that will be done in no time!  It's all done with a glue gun!"  or "It's made with felt -- no hemming!  So easy!" spring all too easily to my lips.  Mr. T has decreed that next year all crafted gifts must be finished by December 1.  He's right, I know -- and if I still want to craft in December, I can work on ornaments, decorations and other such fun projects.

Recently I got two free offers from Shutterfly -- one for a calendar and one for a photo book.  I often get such offers but seldom have time to take advantage of them.  This time, the timing was right and I was able to do both.  The calendar has a sort of "thrown-together look" to me, but I did have fun choosing from old and new photos and arranging them for the different months.  It will be a keepsake.  And the book was fun to do as well.  I chose to give it an autumn theme and to make the book all about our favorite getaway spot in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire.  While deciding on a theme, I noticed that Shutterfly even has a couple of cookbook themes.  That would be a fun project sometime!

Well, I am out of time for today, so perhaps I can get back here tomorrow with something less random!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

January Goals

This incredibly beautiful collage is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
 Having finally arrived at my goals for 2014, now I need to begin breaking them down by month.  I think maybe I am going to skip posting my weekly goals this year, but haven't decided yet for sure.  Maybe the accountability would be good!  For now, here are my January goals:

* Read through the January portion of the One-Year Devotional Bible.
*  Read 4 chapters in The Power of a Godly Grandparent
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook
* Begin "Intentionally Focused" Bible study
* Keep up with my Sunday School study -- The Heart of a Woman Who Prays
* Exercise at least 20 times.
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night.
* Limit sugar.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week.
* Plan an overnight getaway with my husband
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible
* Check out airline tickets for trip to NV in spring.
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week (just a place to start!)
* Spend several hours updating my A-store.
* Do research for setting up an Etsy shop (I've already joined Etsy)
* Make at least a dozen items for sale at craft fairs.
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family.
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal
* Finish some UFO Christmas gift craft projects
* Design and make some winter banners
* Make gift tags from last year's Christmas cards.
* Start several handcrafted birthday gifts for March and April birthdays.

JANUARY'S HEALTHY HABIT:  Get to bed earlier


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Goals for 2014

This fantastic graphic is from


After a lot of thought and prayer, here are my general goals for the coming year.   For 2014, I have chosen six categories in which to set goals:

Personal growth:  Work on character qualities of unselfishness, kindness, compassion, perseverance, and self-control. Work at eliminating the time-wasting habit of procrastination.  Read through the One-Year Devotional Bible.  Read at least 2 books -- Pilgrim's Progress, The Power of a Godly Grandparent, -- and there will be more, I know.  Continue working on my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook.  Memorize Scripture on a weekly basis, meditate on it daily, and finish several Bible studies.  Strengthen my computer skills and maybe make this the year I finally take that painting course.  Nurture creativity.

Physical health:  Exercise at least 5 times per week.  Get enough water and sleep.  Cook and eat with health in mind.  Work on a different healthy habit each month so that in general, I'm taking better care of myself.

Marriage/family life: Plan periodic getaways.  Take the best possible care of my husband and help him in every way possible.  Take advantage of every moment together.  Take time for dates.  Plan fun family activities.  Minister to my family with the gift of a peaceful, orderly home (translation: declutter the entire house and get back to my homemaking routines!) Plan trip to visit faraway family.

Money matters:  Spend less on groceries.  Put time into my A-store and work on plans for an Etsy shop.  Plan and prepare items to sell at craft fairs this fall.  Consider doing some writing for paying publication.

Relationships outside the home:  Be more of an encourager to my elderly dad and also 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 encouragement to other ladies.

Ministry:  Deepen my prayer life, praying faithfully for those with deep needs, praying more regularly for my pastor.  Teach a class on prayer and seek to encourage each lady to be the prayer warrior God would have her to be.  Teach other studies as the Lord leads throughout the year.  Write or re-write another kids' devotional book for summer use by our church's Patch the Pirate Club sailors.  Continue cleaning the church with my hubby once per month. 

This list looks long enough to keep me very busy indeed!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

31 Questions for the New Year

Graphic from
 As I continue to consider what my specific goals for 2014 will be, I am utilizing these 31 Questions for the New Year from Revive Our Hearts.  I came across these this year and thought they would be really helpful.  The first 10 questions are the basic ones, and then the remaining 21 are optional.  Today I am just going to share the first ten, plus my answers (in italics).

1.  What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?  Continue building my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook.

2.  What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?  Turn around an impossible situation; bring physical healing to my friend Terry, if that's His will.

3.  What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?  More getaways with my hubby!

4.  In which spiritual discipline do you want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?  Meditating on Scripture.  I will be using the SOAP method of Bible study.

5.  What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?  Procrastination.  I will be praying about it with regularity -- maybe even daily -- and seeking to implement the "do it now" principle.

6.  What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?  I've just begun a study of prayer with my ladies' Sunday School class.  If a good number (or even a few!) ladies would become serious about answering God's call to be prayer warriors, what a difference that would make in our church!  And, of course, in their individual lives as well.

7.  For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?  My unsaved grandchildren and elderly relatives.

8.  What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year better than last year?  Try to take better care of myself so I will have increased energy to serve God and others.

9.  What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?  Pray each day about what I've learned from God's Word that day, and pray for God to help me apply it to my everyday life.

10.  What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years?  In eternity? This is a difficult one, but I think my answer to question 6 could go here as well.

So there you have it.  Ten questions, ten answers to help me finalize my 2014 goals.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Beginning steps in setting 2014's goals

Whitefield, New Hampshire 1948
I'm still thinking about my goals for 2014 and so Saturday, in preparation, I made a list of some of the purposes I want to take into consideration.

First of all are God's purposes for my life.  His overarching purpose for me is the same as for any believer: To bring honor and glory to God with my life by using the spiritual gifts and the talents He has equipped me with.    I have broken this down into a 3-part personal "job description":
1) Be a godly wife [this includes being a good homemaker]; mother, grandmother, daughter.
2) Use my teaching gifts and other spiritual gifts for God's glory -- to encourage fellow believers and help them to grow spiritually, and to reach out to those who don't yet know Him.
3) Use my writing talents and other talents to God's glory -- again, to encourage my fellow believers and to point others to Him.

Then I have a list of areas where I need to grow and change to become more of a woman after God's own heart, based on a study of Proverbs 31:10-31 which I went through some years ago.  Here are the areas:
* Myself -- work on kindness, hospitality, careful speech, health & energy
* My husband -- work on taking better care of him, helping him, benefiting him
* My household -- work more diligently at watching over it
* My enterprises -- work  harder at discovering how God might have me use my skills and interests to benefit our family.

In addition, I've prayerfully identified a word I want to define my 2014.  Sometimes I have a tough time deciding on a word.  Not this time; it sprang into my brain and said, "I'm your word for this year!".  The word is BALANCE.  I have a lot to juggle and sometimes I just get unbalanced in one area or another.  Balance is a much-needed factor in my life.

With all of this in mind, I hope to set 2014's goals in a day or so.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Reflecting on 2013

This gorgeous graphic is from Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
I saw some reflection questions for 2011 from Simple Mom and thought they would help me get thinking.  I did this exercise for 2011, but apparently skipped doing so for 2012.  I'm hoping that reflecting on 2013 might help me in my goal-setting for 2014.  I'm still not sure about that, but thought I would post the reflection questions and my answers anyway.  So here they are. I will put my answers in italics for easier reading.

Reflection Questions for 2013
1.  What was the single best thing that happened this past year?  I was going to say the birth of a new grandchild in June.  But for the single best thing with eternal consequences, I would have to say the new birth -- a decision for Christ -- a five-year-old grandson in May.

2.  What was the single most challenging thing that happened?  I don't know if there was any one challenging event.  The entire year was just challenging in various ways.

3.  What was an unexpected joy this past year?  I can think of a few.  A fun road trip to Idaho with our daughter and family from Nevada.  Being able to take our two oldest granddaughters to some spiritually enriching events at The Wilds of New England, Dublin Christian Academy, and Trinity Baptist Church.  Being able to encourage other ladies in unexpected ways.

4.  What was an unexpected obstacle this past year?  My biggest obstacle is clearly myself -- I tend to get in my own way.  Isn't that interesting that this was also my answer for 2011's question?  Tiredness, too, was an obstacle of sorts.  And, in the past few months, I've also felt more under attack by Satan than ever before.

5.  Pick three words to describe 2013.  Challenging.  Busy.  Stressful.  But also rewarding.

6.  Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2013 (don't ask them; guess based upon how you think your spouse sees you).  Stressful.  Stressful.  Stressful.

7.  Pick three words your spouse would pick to describe their 2013 (again, don't ask them).  Challenging.  Busy.  Stressful.  But also worthwhile.

8.  What were the best books you read this year?  I didn't read a lot of books, but the best were probably Essential Virtues, by Jim Berg; Finding Your Purpose as a Mom/Building Your Home on Holy Ground, by Donna Otto; and A Woman's Guide to Making Right Choices, by Elizabeth George.

9.  With whom were your most valuable relationships?  My husband, my daughters, my grandchildren, several e-mail friends.

10.  What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?  I must admit to a negative change.  Completely falling off the exercise wagon.

11.  In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?  In general, through most of the year, I was able to trust God, not my wildly wavering emotions, and was able to keep my emotions under better control.  This was an answer to my ongoing prayer to grow in emotional stability.  The past couple of months, though, my emotions have again been a challenge.

12.  In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?  I definitely deepened my knowledge of God as revealed in His Word, and was reminded again that the better we know God, the better able we are to trust Him.  I've also seen some progress in various sin issues in my life; selfishness, in particular.

13.  In what way(s) did you grow physically?  I regressed pretty seriously in this area.

14.  In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?  I'm learning (I hope) to have more of a heart for other people and to become more sensitive as to how God might want to use me to help meet their needs -- spiritual and otherwise.  And I grew much closer to my husband; we were especially encouraged by a couples' retreat we attended in October and a nice getaway up north too.

15.  What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?  Creativity.

16.  What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?  The day-to-day discipline of routine things that must be done.

17.  What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?  Procrastination(Would you believe this was also my answer for 2011?)

18  What was the best way you used your time this past year?  Writing, studying, encouraging, and teaching (both ladies and granddaughters); also, visiting faraway family.

19.  What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?  This is something I already knew, but I saw it more clearly than ever: God wants to use us in the lives of other people.

20.  Create a phrase or statement that describes 2013 for you.  "Being used of God in spite of myself".

Now to think these things through in relationship to my goals.  I hope to share my 2014 and January goals tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A blessed New Year to you!

Mr. T and I would like to wish all of our friends a very happy New Year in 2014!  The prayer above is certainly our prayer for each of you -- and we pray, as well, that you will grow increasingly closer to the Lord in this new year that stretches before us.  Happy New Year!