Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Margin





This past weekend was our Great Commission Women's Fall Refocus Retreat.  It was my first major retreat as the new director of our district and it went well.  The speakers were wonderful and it's always encouraging to spend some time with old friends, as well as meeting new ones.

One of the challenges we heard this weekend was that we often cram our lives so full of stuff that we don't have space to hear from God.  If He is calling us to do something and we haven't left any margin in our lives, we won't have room to do what He wants us to do.

I know that I often live my life without margins.  I stuff my days to the brim with activity.  I have many opportunities for ministry.  I have a number of things that I'm quite capable of doing myself.  Yet, should I do something just because I have the talent or ability to do it?  Often, I'll hear of some ministry or opportunity and think, "Oooh, I'd love to do that!"  or "Let's start this new thing."  but obviously, I can't do every single thing there is to do. 

I often struggle with knowing what I should do and what I shouldn't.  However, if I never take the time to slow down and pray and give myself margin, I won't know what is from the Lord for me to do and what is just a wonderful ministry that others should be doing.

As I prayed this weekend, one thing that I did feel the Lord pressing upon me was that at this stage in my life, it should be less about me doing everything and more about me teaching or mentoring others as they minister.  My role will be more of an encourager and coming alongside others in ministry. 

Sounds easy, right?  Not for this woman who is a doer.  Not when I often feel that unless I'm the one actually doing the ministry, it doesn't count.

Margin is hard for me.  But I need it in order to truly know what God's will is for my life.  I need to take time to reflect, pray and evaluate what I'm doing before I plunge in to anything.  I'm working on putting in those quiet times where I can hear what the Lord is trying to say.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Get Back Up


Those of you who know me, understand that my heart is tied to my family.  When they hurt, I hurt.  When they are happy, I am happy.  I know that is the case with most mothers.  I have spent so much time, praying for my children.

None have struggled more than my oldest son, Nathan.  I don't exaggerate when I say he has walked a hard road.  But no matter how much my heart hurts for him, I am tough on him because I know that wallowing in self-pity will get him nowhere.  I know that focusing on the negative will just spiral him downward.  But I do have to say that being a cheerleader is exhausting at times.

However, for the past few weeks, he has been hearing the same message we give him from other people.  As I'm sure you are aware, often we can talk until we are blue in the face to our children and they don't always believe what we say or accept it.  Yet, they will accept that same thing from someone else.  Weird, I know, but it's what I did to my own mother too.  It wasn't until I had children of my own that I realized that she did know what she was talking about! :-)

Some of the things he has heard from others the past couple of weeks are conversations such as...

  • "I don't look to the fire department to fill my social needs because this group has never been good at that."  "You are on the department to help others and that is the reason you belong." 

  • "You are more bothered by your disability than others are." 

  • "We notice that you hover in the background and bolt right after church."  "People want to see you and talk to you, but you need to make the effort to mingle."

  • "You will bring your self-esteem into every situation or place you go and if you don't feel good about yourself, you will always interpret each situation or conversation negatively."

  • "Finding a job where you are fulfilled and happy is far more important than how much you make."

Nathan sat down and was able to articulate how he is feeling with a couple from our church, the president of the local fire department, as well as his job coach and the coach's supervisor.  It was encouraging for Dan and I to hear them reiterate what we've been telling Nathan for a long time.  He came away from each conversation with a new perspective and in a much more positive frame of mind. 

I have to say that I am proud of my son.  He gets knocked down regularly and yet, keeps getting up and moving forward.  I'm fairly certain he will get pushed down again but I'm going to keep encouraging him to get up and keep on going.

Monday, September 19, 2016

When You Realize How Big God is and How Small Your Problems Are


I stood in the dark under the twinkling stars and the huge luminous moon.  A warm breeze lifted my hair, crickets chirped around me and I felt peaceful.  I was once again overwhelmed with the realization that the God I serve, the King of the Universe, is so much bigger than I remember at times. 

So often I fixate on the problem before me, and it begins to grow in my mind.  It expands to the point that I forget that my God is greater than any issue I wrestle with.  He is bigger than any problem my children will face.  When I keep my focus on Him the problem begins to fade.  It's still there and often requires some action from me, but my fears aren't threatening to overwhelm me.  I'm not quaking in my boots and biting my nails in apprehension of the moment when it all may fall apart.

God is big.  When I remember that, the peace comes.  I have been reminded of this so many times in the past few weeks.  And for that I'm thankful.

This week I'm thankful for blessings #2778- 2790

2778.  An unexpected gift from someone in our church (have no idea who).  I went into the church the other night and found a card there with two gift cards to a local grocery store.  Money has been tight which always happens at this time of the year.

2779.  Being able to take one of those cards and gifting it to another gentleman who is struggling to make ends meet.

2780.  A neighbor gave us some cucumbers and tomatoes from their garden, as well as had me come over and pick some raspberries.

2781.  Realizing how much our church body is enthusiastic and ready to reach out to our community.

2782.  Dan was given two students to tutor and started both of them this week.  Normally it takes at least a month.

2783.  Nathan has people advocating for him and has a phone interview tomorrow for a new job.  Please pray for him.  He needs to get out of the environment he is in.

2784.  Seeing the tremendous growth in our church - both in numbers but also in spiritual growth.

2785.  I've been working on organizing a retreat this coming weekend and am just about ready and yet, have been pretty calm about the whole thing.

2786.  Some exciting new opportunities for outreach in our community.

2787.  Friends who pray for me.

2788.  I've been going to physical therapy for my knee the past few weeks and it's starting to help.

2789.  Wonderful times with the Lord on my deck lately.

and finally...

2790.  A God who is bigger than all of my problems.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Summer's End

I'm not sure what made me think of it, but I realized last night that I don't have an autumn decoration anywhere in the house.  Normally, at this time of the year, my fall table runners, leaves, wall hangings and wreathes are adorning my house.  I love everything about fall - the smells, the sights, the colors and the food.  But this year, it just seems like it's been one endless summer.

It's been extremely hot and humid and I've been extremely busy.  That combination caused me to miss the turning of the calendar.  So today or at least tomorrow I plan on pulling out the autumn decorations and move forward into a new season.

But let me leave you with a few last pictures of summer's end.

Canning jars stuffed anywhere I can find space.



A new to me though ancient way of making grape juice.  No more smashing and cooking and straining.  Place the grapes in canning jars, fill with boiling water and sweetener and process in a water bath canner.  After a few weeks, viola!  Grape juice.


Lemony flavors!


Beautiful summer colors from a friend.



Fresh Herbs


At the very least, I should at least remove the flower boxes and hanging plants from my deck.  It looks like the Adam's Family lives here with the brown and dead stems and no flowers!  lol

As we march onward into Autumn, do you decorate for the season?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Frugal Friday - Putting By

M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me ~

"There was a series, every summer, of short but violently active cannings. Crates and baskets and lug-boxes of fruits bought in their prime and at their cheapest would lie waiting with opulent fragrance on the screened porch and a whole battery of enameled pots and ladles and wide-mouthed funnels would would appear from some dark cupboard."



I remember spending time with my grandmother either shelling peas or snapping beans or watching as she canned tomatoes and peaches.  It was always a fascinating thing for me to see though I certainly had no idea of the amount of work involved.



This summer I decided not to plant a garden because I knew it was going to be a busy summer and to be honest, I am terrible at gardening and really don't enjoy it.  However, I do love the end result of gardening.  All of my efforts never really produce that much.  So this year I decided to take my money and visit a regional market.  Farmers from all over make their way there each Thursday and Saturday and I've been able to find quality produce for great prices.



Many days have been spent "putting by" so that we will have great food all winter long.  It is work but it's fun for me and there is a certain satisfaction I feel when I look at all the colorful jars lining my kitchen pantry.  My freezer is filling up too.  The work will be worth it as I save money.  I also am controlling the ingredients and salt level going into each jar.


This summer so far I have put by...

13 quarts of green beans
13 quarts of sweet corn
6 cups of diced green peppers for the freezer
8 pints of salsa
5 quarts of whole tomatoes
6 pints of roasted red peppers
14 pints of tomato sauce
13 pints of diced tomatoes
4 pints of sauerkraut
10 pints of bread and butter pickles
8 half pints of blueberry jam
13 half pints of blackberry jam
8 quarts of frozen blackberries

Apple, pear and peach season is upon us so those will be next.  I love putting by for my family.  It brings back warm memories from my childhood and helps us to be able to live on a shoestring budget.  I also think that canning is becoming a lost art and one I would love to see carried on to the next generation.



Ways I've saved this week:

$ Spent $60 at the regional market for 1/2 bushel of peppers, 1/2 bushel of green beans, 1/2 bushel of plum tomatoes, 1 seedless watermelon, 2 heads of lettuce, 6 onions, 1 lb. of mushrooms, 3 eggplant, 2 acorn squash, 5 lbs. of salt potatoes, and 3 sweet potatoes.

$ A friend gave me a couple of yellow squash and a couple of cucumbers.

$ Another friend dropped off a large bag full of fabric.  Fun, fun!  I can't wait to go through it and start creating.  There are a couple of craft fairs coming up that I'm going to participate in.  Terri needs some Christmas money! ;-)

$ Made a few meatless dishes - falafel, macaroni & cheese, veggie stir fry.

$ Cut Dan, Stephen and Nathan's hair.

$ Made my own laundry detergent

$ Made my own soap


Do you can or "put by"?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wednesday Words of Encouragement

Psalm 119:57-62 (HCSB) ~

The Lord is my portion;I have promised to keep Your words.
I have sought Your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to Your promise.
I thought about my ways
and turned my steps back to Your decrees.
I hurried, not hesitating
to keep Your commands.
Though the ropes of the wicked
were wrapped around me,
I did not forget Your instruction.
I rise at midnight to thank You
for Your righteous judgments.

James 1:22-25 (HCSB) ~

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

As a parent, I can always tell when my children are just "yessing" me when I ask them to do something, or when they are sincere in their desire to do what I ask.  The proof is in the pudding!  If what I want happens, then I know they truly heard me and were willing to obey, or if they were just paying me lip service.

As believers, we often do this same thing to God.  We say, "Yes." with our lips but our hearts are saying something else.  The proof comes in our action.  We either do it or we don't. 

I love how David hurries to follow God's commands.  Here is a man who truly desires to be obedient.  And because of that he was called a man after God's heart.  He was continually thankful for the Lord's word.

Are we like that?  I confess that I often fail here.  I feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit to do something, but often I make excuses or forget or get too busy to obey.  Sometimes, I outright ignore that nudge because, to be honest, I don't wanna do it!

Let's work together to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading in our life and then actually rush to obey.  Let's put the priority on doing what the Lord wants us to do and be then be faithful in following.  Don't just listen to what the Lord is telling you to do, but put your faith into action.
 
That's where we will find the blessing in our lives!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Working Out





Bad attitudes, unkind words, impatience and stinking thinking have been flying around my house lately.  I've come to a realization that the worst culprit is me!  I wake up and feel the stinkiness oozing out of me and I feel kind of helpless to stop it. And that stink permeates everything and soon our whole household wreaks with the stench!

But, just as losing weight won't happen without hard work and determination, neither will those bad habits that I've developed.  God isn't going to miraculously clap a hand over my mouth nor keep my attitude from spiraling downhill.  He doesn't work that way.  He expects me with His help to do the hard work of changing.

And it is very hard.  It's exercise.  It requires working those attitude and mouth muscles and forcing them into new ways of thinking and responding.  But the more that you do it, the easier it becomes and the less those muscles scream in resistance.

So I'm working out by responding with kindness, being joyful in my own attitude, not reacting or overreacting, and mentally preparing myself for conversations before they happen.

And the wonderful thing is that the more I exercise, the more positive affect there is on the rest of the household.  So I'm doing the hard thing and working out.  But the results are worth it!

Proverbs 14:1 (HCSB) ~

Every wise woman builds her house,but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.