Happy New Year!

Tomorrow is the start of a new year.  I haven’t given any thought to the idea of new year’s resolutions.  If anything, I would like to continue to live in a way that resonates with the real me, my spiritual self, the one God created me to be, and maybe do it in a more conscious and simple way.  To do that, I’ve written a few guidelines for myself, and hopefully they will help someone else to clarify their own purpose, priorities, and goals.

Be Here Now – It’s so easy to be anxious in the world in which we live today.  I’m no stranger to anxiety.  Many years ago it was a real issue in my life, even though I was a Christian and thought I put my trust in God.  For a short period of time, it almost controlled my life until I received the unmistakable message that the healing of anxiety had to come from the inside out.  It had to come from changing my thoughts, and I was the only one who could do that.  This didn’t happen overnight, but it was one of the turning points in my life.  I learned that I couldn’t be present right here and now if I was constantly worried about tomorrow.  I was allowing the present moment to be stolen from me by anxious thoughts.  I had memorized the scripture in Philippians that tells us to be anxious for nothing but to pray and give thanks, but I didn’t really know how to do this.  The wisdom to do this came as God spoke to my heart, often in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.  Gradually I learned that I was creating my anxious life by my anxious thoughts.  I wasn’t anxious because the world was a scary, uncertain place – I was anxious because I thought of it that way.  Slowly I began to believe in a different kind of world – a world of beauty, kindness, love, light, and joy – yes, still an uncertain world, but that didn’t matter so much anymore.  As I saw light in my own consciousness, light was evident in my world.  I very rarely worry anymore or even think that much about tomorrow.  I still plan because sometimes things just won’t get done if you don’t put a plan in place, but then I let it go.  If it doesn’t work out exactly as I had planned, I let that go too.  Now I just want to learn to enjoy the present moment – the sun sparkling on the snow, the trees blowing in the wind, a baby’s smile, a warm cup of coffee or tea in my favorite cup, the delicious feeling of dropping off to sleep when I’m really tired, a bird’s song, the faces of my beloved family, my quiet time in the morning before the sun comes up.  Now is really the only time we have, and I think we will be healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we live in the present.

Live in the Light – Light is sometimes a metaphor for clarity, guidance, and understanding.  It’s available to all of us, but we often live in darkness and don’t know why.  We are afraid, perplexed,  and confused. Psalm 43:3 says “Send forth your light and your truth; let them guide me”.  I don’t believe that anyone with a true understanding would choose to walk in darkness, yet it happens all the time because of a lack of knowledge and understanding.  I read recently of a man who had been made blind by an accident at the age of 8.  Even though blind, he had an almost continuous sense of inner light visible to him throughout his life which guided him in his contact with the external world and also brought him great joy.  He said that the only time the light would dim almost to the point of vanishing was when he would allow himself to feel fear, mistrust, anger, ambition, impatience, or jealousy. When I read this, it had such an impact on me because I suddenly fully realized that we don’t just choose to love, trust, believe, be patient, and be grateful because it makes us good people, but because when we are living that way we are letting in the light, our path is made clear, and we experience joy and peace.  I really don’t want to spend one minute of my life blocking the light from entering so I can be right or nurse a grudge or blame someone else for my problems.  Once again it comes back to our way of thinking.  We have a lot more control over our own lives than we realize.  There are many scriptures concerning light, and that might be a good place to begin to help us understand the light.  I John 2:9-10 says “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”  It sure makes it easier for me to do the right thing when I realize that by doing so, I am walking in the light, and for those times when I’m not sure what is the right thing, the light shows me the way.

Do What You Love – I was probably close to 40 years old before I realized that I was meant to love and enjoy life.  I had some happy times in childhood, but much of it was just plain hard, and I must have carried into my adult life the idea that life is a sad struggle.  I also had the idea that you had to have a job simply to earn money, whether you liked it or not, and you had to fit in. I had some quirky things about me that just didn’t fit in with what most people were doing and what seemed acceptable.  I loved the outdoors, a lot.  I spent many, many hours even in high school roaming the countryside, taking pictures, hiking, laying on the grass looking at the sky, and just thinking.  I didn’t share this with a lot of people because it was a little weird.  Teenagers weren’t supposed to like to be alone, I thought, unless maybe they were listening to music or sleeping.  I enjoyed dances, slumber parties, and my part-time job, but I needed my time alone.  I also liked to read and write, baby-sit, bake, and study cookbooks.  I allowed myself to do these things, but I still often felt like an odd duck. I went on to nursing school because I enjoyed helping people, but after several years I realized that the world of mainstream western medicine and the fast pace of health care was not for me. I wanted to help people, but more (as I had been helped) from the inside out or from teaching a more natural lifestyle.  I still don’t have this all figured out, but I know that as I follow what I love and desire to do, the path will become more clear.  Now as I grow herbs, flowers, and vegetables, make natural soap and bodycare products, and study peace and the coming together of science and spirituality, I am doing what I love, what comes naturally, and what I feel will make a difference.  There will always be those things that need to be done that we don’t particularly enjoy, but I believe we can be guided along the right path for us by following passion and pleasure.

Happy New Year!  Be here now, live in the light, do what you love, be kind, be grateful, be yourself, and love God,yourself and others.  May 2013 be a year of peace and plenty for you!

Things I Love in January

I love hiking in the winter – no bugs, crisp, fresh air, a chance to see things you might not notice in any other season – and I am so blessed to have a grandson who loves it as much as or more than I do.  After he went through a major orthopedic surgery last February, it means even more to me to be outdoors hiking with him!

My husband gave me a Vera Bradley bag for Christmas – we had never discussed this, and he had no idea if I would really like or not, but he took a chance, and I love it!  The print is so pretty, and I love the size of the bag!

My family knows I love herbs and spices, and Penzey’s is one of my favorite places to go.  My son’s gift to me included this lovely box from Penzey’s complete with cocoa, cinnamon, hot chocolate mix, and cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, and bay leaves tossed in for a special treat!

I love soup – I love making it and eating it – all kinds of soup.  Soup and bread or a sandwich would probably be my favorite winter meal.  My daughter gave me these delightful dishes just made for soup and a sandwich!

Here is another one of my favorite things right now – given to me by my daughter – and something I will use in all sorts of ways in all seasons.  It could be used to display a favorite momento or a beautiful cupcake or cookies or other foods.  Notice the words on the cute little spreader that came along with it.  I love this!

Other things I love in January:

White sales – I’m a nester & I love sheets, towels, blankets, and the cozy things that make a house a home.

The sense of calm that comes after a busy holiday season.

The feeling of having a clean slate and a fresh start.  I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I want to simplify and concentrate on the things that are really important to me – to get rid of clutter physically and mentally.

Every month has its beauty, and I think we need to find what makes life special and enjoyable for us and do more things just for sheer pleasure.  Happy New Year!

October

It seems that the majority of people who live in a four-season climate love autumn.  Many say it is their favorite time of the year.  Yes, winter is not that far away, but I know I don’t even give winter a second thought when caught up in the beauty and majesty of an autumn day.  The fall color just about takes your breath away, and it’s easy to be fully in the moment when surrounded by such beauty.

I think it has something to do with the transience of autumn.  Like the tulips, daffodils, and lilacs in the spring, we know the striking colors of the changing leaves against the brilliant blue autumn sky  last such a short time that we almost try to enter into them, to fix them in our mind, to fully enjoy every minute of their brief existence.

What if we looked at our lives, our children, the people we love, and all the people around us in the same way?  Sometimes we just think life will go on forever and we don’t relish or appreciate it as we should. I have news for you – everything is always changing, and one day life as we know it will come to an end.  The beauty of an autumn day is easy to see, but each day has its own beauty, each person their own beauty, each brief moment something worth seeing and appreciating.

One of my favorite quotes is “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.  Try seeing everything from the food you eat to the faces you see every day with new eyes.  Eyes of appreciation and love.  Enjoy the little things – the feel of your sheets against your skin, the scent of your soap, the smiles of the people you work with, the strength of your muscles as they help carry you where you want to go.  Give thanks for your world and maybe you will see it transform before your eyes!

Summer Day

Give me a 65 – 75 degree day, and I am very  happy.  I even like  30 – 50 degrees – great for a long walk. I’m not a fan of heat though, and especially not humidity.  However, one of the things I’m trying to change in my life is my tendency to brace myself against those things I don’t like or am just not satisfied with.  So, with temperatures in the 80’s today, I set out for a walk, as I often do, but this time I decided to try to be content, to just be there in the moment not wishing for anything else.

Sunny skies with white fluffy clouds, the smell of clover in the air, and yes, a little warm, but that’s what July is, and with that long winter not that far behind us, warm is good.  Now I’m going out to mow the lawn and work in the garden thankful for a sunny summer day!

Thoughts at the end of winter

I am making granola today using a recipe from the wonderful book Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.  It is one of my favorite granola recipes because of the combination of peanut butter, coconut, pecans, and cinnamon.  Delightfully different.

While I was gone yesterday, my husband brought home some daffodils, and I have enjoyed watching them open up this morning.

His dad enjoyed all kinds of flowers, and after watching him bring home colorful bouquets this winter to brighten the house, I’m thinking he also has that love of beauty. I guess most of us do, but we don’t always do anything about it.

Last week-end, our grandson Cairo celebrated his birthday with family, friends, and classmates at the YMCA.  Dinosaurs were the theme of the day, and the kids took turns pinning the horn on the Triceratops (I think that’s his name).

They bounced away in the bouncy house, played basketball, and did a lot of tumbling in the gym.  I think Cairo thoroughly enjoyed it, along with the pizza, cake, and ice cream.

Ethan managed to shoot a few hoops  from his wheelchair (with a little help catching the ball as it came down so it wouldn’t hit his casts).

Just imagine the energy of a 10 year old boy who hasn’t been out of the house for about a week and a half and has been confined to a bed or wheelchair!  Cairo’s party came along just in time because  there was a lot of room to wheel around and play.

I spent two days at the end of the week at an excellent training on restorative justice and the circle process.  I’ve been doing volunteer work in this area for about a year and haven’t written about it because when I do, I want to do it justice.  It is such an important and potentially life-changing topic.  I want to have a little more experience before I spend much time trying to explain it to someone else.  I am so grateful for the people I have met through restorative justice.  They have a heart for young people and are changing the way we look  at them and at justice and accountability, and  the ways we relate to one another and bring restoration to victims and communities after crime.

The snow piles shrunk ever so slightly this week, and next week should bring even warmer temperatures.  It really is a wonderful time of the year because each day brings changes, and even if we have a snowstorm, it will melt relatively quickly. I have to remember to take time each day to breathe deeply outdoors and savor each little sign of spring!

March

These are photos of our living room after I switched over from a dark olive paint color to a light neutral, “fuzzy sheep”.  I enjoyed the dark green color for a couple of years, but this winter found me craving more light in the living room.  The light color is definitely not as dramatic, but bringing in more light made me feel a lot better.

When I look at these pictures, I prefer the green color, but I am happy with my choice because the room is brighter.  I like to paint and enjoy experimenting with color, but this room is not fun to paint so I want a color we can live with for a long time, even if we change everything else.

I had other ideas for making the remainder of the winter more pleasant, one of which was to have a tea party and get out some pretty, cheerful dishes.  I didn’t have a tea party, but I did have a good friend over for tea, used some of my favorite dishes, and had a pleasant afternoon.

My daughters and I did go to a thrift store to try to find some items or furniture we could make over for our homes, but none of us had any luck that day.  We had fun looking, and it is always good to spend time with them, so I still consider the day a success.  They are so good at decorating and trying new things – I love to see what they will come up with next.

I wanted to spend a day sledding with the grandchildren, but we haven’t done that yet either.  Ethan had surgery a week ago, and with both legs in casts, he won’t be going sledding any more this winter.  We did spend a mild day in the park together before his surgery, and I’m grateful for that.  Carly and Clay stayed with us while Ethan was in the hospital, and we were able to spend some time playing games, reading books, and going out to eat.  Cairo has his sixth birthday party at the YMCA this week-end, and we always look forward to parties!

My mom celebrated her 90th birthday this past week, and some of my siblings were able to come to help her celebrate.  I think she enjoyed it, even though it was a full day and probably wore her out!  The bakery in town did a great job of making a cake for her!

I was able to see and hold my new great-niece, Lucia – a real beauty already at the age of three and a half weeks! Here she is with her mother, Lisa.

I’ve been spending part of each day with Ethan, helping him with his schoolwork and just trying to provide a diversion for him during his time of recovery. His little brother, Chance, helps with that too.  So far, everything is going pretty well, and we are grateful for that!

Now it is March 4th, and even with a snowstorm in the forecast, there is a touch of spring in the air.  I have heard birds that I haven’t heard for a long time, and I even saw a flock of geese overhead yesterday.  My parsley is up and growing, and it will soon be time to plant peppers indoors.  Soon we will have forgotten how high the snowdrifts were and what bitter cold temperatures feel like and will be enjoying sunshine and green grass!

January

Frigid temperatures, not much sun, huge piles of snow, streets covered with slush that has frozen into bumpy, icy, ruts – I feel like I have to come up with a plan to make the rest of the winter bearable since I know I’m not going away to a warm, sunny place anytime soon.

I need to fill my life with some kind of beauty and also do something fun and productive to make the winter more enjoyable.  Paint the dark olive green living room walls a lighter, fresher color?  Have a tea party with fresh flowers and beautiful dishes?  Browse through the seed catalogs and plan my spring garden?  Have a sleep-over and sledding party with the grandchildren if we ever get a Saturday with mild temps?  Talk my daughters into going to a thrift store and each picking up an item that we can turn into something useful or attractive for our homes?  Make or find little gifts to send to people I love “just because”?  Plan a special Valentine dinner for my husband?  Get involved in a cause much bigger than myself?

As I write these, they all seem like great ideas, and I think I will do most or all of them, and even take pictures as I go along.  The long winter seems brighter already. Of course, I have to remember that even a long, cold January has a beauty of its own.