Spiritual Sunday: A New Path

2012 will come to a close tomorrow. 2013 is just a couple of sunrises away. While the change from one year to the next is brief and abrupt–just one second in the passing of time–each year, it’s such an anticipated moment. When Christmas has ended, we tend to look back on the rest of the year and reflect. We critique ourselves:

  • What did I do right?
  • Where did I go wrong?
  • How can I improve?

After some reflection, we come up with a list of resolutions for the impending new year:

  • Exercise more.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Have more patience.
  • Make time to relax.
  • Get organized.
  • Blog consistently.

The repetitiveness of this New Year’s tradition says something about it’s effectiveness: it’s not effective. Ask any true gym rat (my mom!) and they will tell you how annoying it is at the beginning of January when unfamiliar faces start pouring in. They take over the aerobics classes and occupy the machines until maybe mid-February, and then the crowd starts to dwindle. By March, the gym is left with the same faithful members that were there the year before. The commercials and advertisements shout to you this time of year: Match.com, Nutri-system, Weight Watchers, etc. They prod you onto a path of finding a better you.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t make resolutions. That we shouldn’t strive to better ourselves. I’m questioning the method. If this is your fifth year in a row of making a resolution to exercise more, there must be a reason that it’s not sticking with you. Some might argue that it’s simply a matter of willpower. That’s a possibility. But there could be something else holding you back.

Your mind.

Unless your mind is already on the path to a better you, your body will not follow. If your mind is telling you at the end of the year that you’re not good enough, that you need to make changes to yourself, then your mind is not in a good place. It’s going to convince your body to stop all efforts, and it will succeed. The repetitiveness of our New Year’s resolutions tells us that.

How do you break the cycle?

With faith.

When I was struggling with post-partum depression, I tried getting myself organized. I tried exercising. I tried eating better. But my mind wasn’t in the right place. It didn’t stick. And then I started reading the Bible. I started praying. I started listening to what God had to say instead of what the world had to say. And among the many wonderful things that He told me was this:

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible.

But with God everything is possible.” -Matthew 19:26 (NLT)

The path I needed to find for a better life wasn’t through my own critique of what was wrong with my life, but through seeking God’s purpose for me. It wasn’t a gym membership or a new diet plan, but taking in more spiritual food. The more I come to know God and to follow the path that He has set for me, the more everything else falls into place.

I’m exercising more.

I’m eating healthier.

I’m feeling more confident.

I’m more organized.

And most importantly, I’m following God’s path for my life, because that path has a promise of something greater beyond this life:

This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you,

the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ. -John 17:3 (NWT)

Finding your spiritual path to God is not the easy path. It’s not a quick fix. But for me, it’s the only one that lasts.

I need no resolutions this year, but to continue getting to know God. Once our minds are set on following His path, all of our other needs will fall into place.

May God bless your life and your family this New Year!


How to Reuse Christmas Cards

One of my favorite gifts at Christmastime is all of the beautiful Christmas cards that come in the mail. Whether it’s the traditional store-bought card that is sold in bulk, or a handpicked Hallmark, or the popular photo card created online, I love seeing all of the beautiful Christmas depictions and reading the warm wishes of the season. I merrily display each one in my home.

But what do I do with them after Christmas? There are too many to keep year after year, and while I love receiving cards, I rarely hold onto but a precious few. I know it’s a bit morbid, but part of me wonders, “What on earth would my boys do with a thousand old Christmas cards after we die and they inherit every little item in our home?” So I throw them out.

This year, I decided to do something special with the Christmas cards. I wanted to give them a new life and value, after their purpose had already been fulfilled. I reused them. I turned this year’s Christmas greeting cards into next year’s homemade Christmas gift tags.

How to Reuse Christmas Cards: Homemade Christmas Gift Tags

You need:

  • Christmas cards
  • scissors
  • tape
  • card stock
  • hole punch

And then:

  1. Cut up the Christmas cards into small, usable pieces. For example, cut out Santa’s face or a Christmas tree or the snowman in the background. There is no rhyme or reason other than what appeals to you.
  2. Tape each piece onto a piece of card stock.
  3. Use the hole punch to make a hole in each gift tag.
  4. That’s it! Now you have beautiful, homemade gift tags ready to attach with a ribbon onto next year’s Christmas gifts! And your Christmas cards have been given new life.

(See photos below for an example of the process!)

Christmas cards, destined for the trash can post-Christmas.

Christmas cards, destined for the trashcan post-Christmas.

After cutting the useful pieces from the cards.

After cutting the useful pieces from the cards.

The finished gift tag!

The finished gift tag!

 

Beautiful gift tags, ready for a ribbon and a label.

Beautiful gift tags, ready for a ribbon and a label.

What do you do with the cards you receive? It’s also worth noting that you can do this with birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, etc!


A Merry Christmas to You!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas (or happy belated Chanukah!) from our family to yours. May your days this week be full of good news and joy.

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Last Minute Christmas Gift/Activity!

I say every year that I am going to start my Christmas shopping early. That I won’t wait until the last minute. And every year, I do buy a gift here and there in the fall to put away for Christmas, but somehow, I always end up scrambling at the last minute for SOMETHING. Whether it’s the stocking stuffers, the gift cards for those people that I just couldn’t come up with a better idea for, baking the cookies, or just a little extra touch of decorating, there is always something that I end up doing at the last minute before Christmas.

I want to share a couple of quick little gifts that I made for my children’s grandparents this year, just in case you are in need of a little something at the last minute too!

Angel and Rudolph Homemade Clothespin Ornaments

A few weeks ago, my dad gave me a bag full of old (vintage?) clothespins. I guess he knew if anyone could find a way to reuse them, it would be me! I painted one to look like a Rudolph reindeer and tied a ribbon around one of the “antlers” and I painted another one to look like an angel. I glued card stock wings to the back and then tied a ribbon around the “neck” for hanging on the tree! So simple, and yet I love that they made nice little gifts for grandparents and my son’s teacher.

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Santa and Reindeer Handprints

This one is my favorite, and even if you don’t need it for a gift, you can also use this as an activity for the little ones at your family’s Christmas party! Both of my boys just love getting their hands painted and my oldest was amazed at the way they turned out when I added the finishing touches!

For a Santa, paint bottom of the palm and thumb red, leaving just the tip of the thumb to paint white. Then paint a stripe of white above the red, right across the middle of the palm. Paint the next 1-2 inches of the palm a flesh color (mix brown and white paints until you get a color you like for the face). Finally, paint the remaining four fingers white for the beard. Press the hand upside-down on the paper and you have a Santa! When it dries, you can add eyes and a nose (and a mouth if you want a child-like look).

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For a reindeer, simply paint the whole palm brown, press upside-down against the paper, and let it dry. Add the eye, hooves, and antlers with black marker when the paint dries, and a dab of red paint for his nose!

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I taped both of them onto a piece of card stock and added a message to turn them into a homemade Christmas card for our children’s grandparents!

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Cute, huh? 🙂

Do you try to get all of your Christmas prep finished early, or do you end up doing something at the last minute like me??


I Shouldn’t

I got out of bed at 6:30 this morning. I went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, only realizing in the absence of the familiar smell of Folger’s that I hadn’t set the coffee maker the night before. Drat. I poured a glass of Cherry Pepsi instead and sat at the dining room table for my daily Bible reading. When I finished reading, I ended my morning quiet time with a prayer, asking God to wrap his protective arms around the schools throughout the country today.

I made a couple of frozen whole-grain waffles and a glass of orange juice for my six-year-old son. I took it into the bedroom and gently woke him up.

“Hey, Mister Sleepyhead, it’s time to get up. I made some syrupy-sweet waffles for my sweet big boy,” I said. I stroked his soft, blonde hair and kissed his cheek.

He opened his eyes and asked excitedly, “Waffles?”

“Yep, get up and out of bed so you can eat them!”

He jumped out of bed and sat on the floor with his waffles. I left him and went back to the kitchen to put his lunch together.  A Lunchable and a Fruit Roll-Up, two of his favorite treats. I set his lunch bag next to his backpack and went to check on him. His eyes were glued to the TV with an empty plate at his feet.

“Wow, that was fast!” I said. “Okay, get yourself dressed now, please. I’m going to go get your brother.”

As I headed out of the room, our dog started jumping and dancing at the front door. “Okay, okay,” I said. I opened the door, and she bolted past me. The click-clack of her toenails on our hardwood floors woke up the baby boy, and he started to fuss but ended it with an abrupt smile when he saw my face. “Good morning, baby boy,” I said as I picked him up and snuggled him close. “Let’s go see Bubby.”

I carried him back into the room where my oldest son should have been getting dressed, only to find him snuggled under the covers again and watching cartoons. “Son, please get dressed,” I said.

He stared at me. I stared back at him. No one moved. “Let’s go! You need to get dressed for school!” I said.

“Okay! I am!” he said, making his way slowly down to the edge of his bed where his empty clothes rested in a heap.

I left the baby boy to play on the floor and went to get myself dressed. I threw on a sweatshirt and a pair of flats, brushed my hair and teeth, and went back to check on my son’s progress.

Still wearing his PJs. Clothes still in a heap. The only change in the entire scene was bare feet instead of socked feet. I turned off the TV. “Let’s. Go. Get dressed. Now you need to hurry, or you’re going to be late for school.” I picked up the baby boy, stopped at the front door to call the dog back into the house, and got the baby boy dressed and his diaper changed. I hurried back to the room. No shirt. PJ pants. No socks.

“SON! Seriously, this is getting ridiculous! Why does it take you so long to get dressed in the mornings? I hate starting our day with me getting angry with you!” I said. Don’t do this. Don’t let this be the last conversation you have with him. I offered more gently, “Can you please just hurry and get dressed so that I can get you to school on time today?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

He finished getting dressed (somewhat) quickly, brushed his teeth in a reasonable amount of time, and then gave the dog food and water before we headed out the door.

“I love you,” I said on our way to his school.

“I love you too.”

We pulled up next to the sidewalk leading to the entrance to his school, and I asked him for a hug and kiss. I squeezed his little body tight and gave him a quick peck on the lips.

“Have a great day, buddy. I love you so much.”

“I will. Love you too.” He slammed the door shut, and I watched every one of his steps toward the school building. His gym teacher greeted him at the door, opened it for him, and when it closed, I lost sight of my son. Tears that I hadn’t known were forming started to flow down my cheeks in long, fast-moving streams. My heart ached. Even as I drove away, I wanted him in the car with me again. I hadn’t been sad the day I dropped him off in Kindergarten for the first time, but I was sad this morning. Sad for the world.

I shouldn’t need to pray for God to protect our children at school. I shouldn’t feel guilty about yelling at my son for taking an insane amount of time to get dressed in the morning, fearful that those might be the last words that I say to him. I shouldn’t feel terrified as I watch my son walk through the doors of his school. But I do. And if I do, I can not even imagine what a school morning feels like now to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary.


Spiritual Sunday: Love One Another

The Connecticut school shooting on Friday was devastating to parents and teachers throughout the country. I can not begin to imagine the amount of hurt and fear that it has created among Newtown, CT community, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and teachers and emergency professionals (especially those children that survived and witnessed that horrible, shocking tragedy). I pray for their healing and strength to move forward that will likely be a slow and difficult process.

I’m still finding difficulty wrapping my head around what happened and why and how, and from several states away, my perspective is hardly important or relevant. However, one thought keeps coming to mind that I felt the need to share: We need love.

Our world seems to be increasingly violent, hateful, impatient, and intolerant towards one another. So much so that it’s being taken out on innocent and precious children. Because I know that God is so good, these kinds of gut-wrenching, terrible tragedies leave me no doubt that today’s world belongs to Satan and his evils that can creep into the minds of people and take seed.

We can argue all we want about gun control or the amount of security implemented in schools, but one thing for certain is that as long as this is Satan’s world, there will be wicked people who will find a way to do wicked things.

The only way I know to counteract such evil acts is through love. It won’t make the damage go away or take away the pain that those families and school staff are feeling in Newtown today, but if we demonstrate love to as many people as we can, as often as we can, we can show the world (and Satan) that we will not succumb to such wicked ways. We won’t let us break us. We will keep on loving and finding the good that still exists in this world. We won’t find a better example of that love than we found in Jesus Christ:

A new command I give: Love one another. As I have loved you,

so must you love one another. -John 13:34 (NIV)

It doesn’t matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are. Just love your neighbors. It’s what the world desperately needs in these sad and wicked times.

Show someone a little love today.


I Wave at Strangers

Photo credit: FreeRangeStock.com

Photo credit: FreeRangeStock.com

I drove towards our home along the main street of our new-to-us, rural town. It was the street where all of the local businesses–churches, flea markets, and bars–centered themselves; the street with all the action. It was quaint, I thought. It was rustic and authentic compared to the big city suburbs that we had always called home. I had always imagined living in a small country town like this, raising our family on God and gravel roads and home-grown produce.

As I turned the car away from the main road towards our new home, we passed another car. My husband picked up his hand in a “hi-how-ya-doin?” sort of way. The stranger in the car did the same.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Does he know you?”

“I don’t think so.”

I processed the non-information and then asked, “Well then why did you wave to him?”

“It’s what people do out here.”

“Oh. That’s weird.”

“It’s not weird. It’s just how people are in the country. They’re friendly.”

“It’s still weird.”

“And you always wave to the cops,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because everyone does.”

“What, are they going to pull me over if I don’t?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“That’s weird.”

The only time I had ever waved at someone I didn’t know–except for those awkward moments when I waved to someone thinking I knew them, when embarrassingly it turned out that, no, I did not–was when I accidentally cut them off. I would be driving and singing away with the radio, until I realized at the last moment that I needed to be in the other lane. And then I would do the obligatory “Whoops! Didn’t see you there!” half-wave that probably just pissed off the other driver as I slipped our car in front of theirs. There was certainly no time in the mad dash on highway 70 between home and work to gawk around and wave to people that I would likely never meet. And given said bad habit of cutting people off, calling the cops to my attention just seemed like asking for trouble.

As it turns out, my husband was right. People who live in the country will wave to you, for seemingly no reason at all and whether they know you or not. Especially the old guys in trucks. Especially the folks who drive by and spot you reading a book in the peace and quiet of your front porch. It felt like such a heavy, uncomfortable effort to lift my hand and wave in return. But I did.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, I started initiating the wave. Lifting my hand a few inches off the steering wheel and aiming an open palm at a stranger passing by just felt like the natural thing to do. Sometimes the other person waves back. Sometimes they don’t. And if they don’t, I always hope that eventually the local hospitality rubs off on them too.

 

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