Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Empower: You Get To Decide

This really is Part 2 of my refrigerator story, but it's about so much more. So what does the title I chose have to do with that? I hope the answer will be clear by the time you finish reading.

Monday morning I looked outside and loved the way the sky looked. It was such a bright blue with interesting clouds. I had to grab my camera and go out on the porch to take some pictures. 

I came back inside and was reminded that I still had not gotten back to the actual cleaning of the refrigerator, and it had been over a week. I was tempted to think about how far behind I was and how it should have already been done. That's how doubts start. One thing leads to another and we begin to feel that we'll never catch up or get it right.

Notice I used the word "tempted," because this time I did not fall into the trap of lies.

God brought to mind what my youngest daughter always tells me when I say I am behind with things. She says, "Mom, you are right where you are supposed to be." When I thought about that I realized she was right. We put so many demands on ourselves. When we can't live up to them we end up on a downward spiral and feel sorry for ourselves thinking we are not good enough.

But this is not what God wants for us!

He knows that real life is hard. We face many trials and interruptions in our day to day lives. Instead of being down on ourselves we should accept that we can't do it all. At the end of the day we can remember all that we DID accomplish rather than regret all we didn't do.

I'm going to apply that to my refrigerator cleaning job. This was supposed to be a job where I would share how to get it done efficiently by taking baby steps. Well, maybe God wanted me to be more vulnerable and honest. I needed to let you know that even when we are intentional and make plans they don't always work out as expected. Sometimes jobs have to be spread out even if it's not ideal.

Getting back to Monday morning and my fridge...

Starting with the top shelves I took everything out and placed it on the counter. Then I removed the shelves one at a time and washed them over the sink. Then I wiped the upper inside walls of the fridge before replacing the shelves and the food. I did the same thing with the next level of shelves.

By taking baby steps, doing one shelf at a time it's pretty easy to stop if need be. It took me a good hour to finish all of the shelves and drawers in the main section of the fridge not including the door. While working I had several interruptions one of which was a call from the daughter I mentioned earlier. She lives about an hour away and wanted me to come visit.

Now I had a choice.

I could say that I was too busy because the job had to be finished today (which I would have to do if I had taken everything out at once), or I could stop now and finish another time. Because I had broken it down into baby steps I knew what the decision would be. I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that to see her and her family!

Today is Wednesday, over two weeks since I first started cleaning the fridge. It took me ten minutes to finish the door section today. Our freezer, which is a drawer at the bottom of the fridge will wait for another day. Do you know what was different than other times when a job has taken me longer than expected? I was not stressed, because I did not put a time limit on when the job was supposed to be finished. I had no reason to feel like I was behind in the work.You see, as another daughter reminded me today, the job does not control you. You are in control of the job.

You get to decide.

You take baby steps.

You set the pace.

You are in charge.

No more guilt for not finishing at a certain time. You work at your pace and the job will eventually get done.

Just like me and my refrigerator.

Linking up with Kelly Balarie and Friends and the #RaRaLinkup!

I'd love for you to visit my other posts in the Empower: You Can Do It series.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grace In Every Day

I have been thinking about grace today. How is grace shown in my life? Sometimes I'm so busy going from one thing to another that by the time evening comes, I don't even remember instances where grace has been demonstrated. I want to change that, and I have made some progress.

The days when I am most aware of grace are the ones I spend time walking in the woods near my house. There are about 900 acres of forest behind my house, but I don't go very deep into them. For one thing a little ways in it has a steep downslope. I can actually still see my house if I look in one direction, but if I turn and face the woods it feels as if I'm there alone.

It's this alone time that helps me slow down. I grab my walking stick, put on my mudboots and head toward an easy place to enter, ready to see what there is to see. I have found some very interesting formations on trees.

It is quieter there in the woods making it conducive for contemplation. When I observe the hugeness of the trees and the vastness of the sky, it reminds me that the God who holds all this in place is the One who watches over me always.

His grace covers me.

Probably all of us have times in our days where God has protected us from something that we were totally unaware of. Last night coming home from a bridal shower a young deer came out of nowhere, but my daughter saw it in time and was able to slow down as it crossed in front of us, barely making it.

That same daughter has had some very close calls that made me realize God is watching over her. Twice in her life she has fallen down a flight of stairs, once as a baby and once as a teen. When she was three she rode her tricycle down the four steps leading from our porch but didn't receive a scratch. Another time she fell out of tree landing on her back and was fine. Once she fell out of the loft that her sisters slept in. All of those times and more, I have thanked God that His hand has protected her.

His grace covers her.

This afternoon as I relax in my rocking chair listening to the gentle music of the porch chimes I think of how blessed I am. 

At times I am tempted to complain about all the repairs and changes we need to make on the house, but all that does is take my eyes away from the beauty that is all around me. I start to think that no one can feel welcome in this house that needs so much work. 

We had visitors last weekend. They showed me that those things don't really matter. What matters is that we made them feel welcome sharing what we had. That is also grace at work.

His grace covers my house.

I want to be more aware and to be fully present every moment of the day. I want to see the grace in every situation, including the unpleasant ones. We are imperfect people who live in an imperfect world, but God is working in our lives and in our world through people like you and me. 

Why don't we look for ways this week that we can show grace to others? It really doesn't take much to smile at someone or to give an encouraging word to those we see each day. I've found that when I take the focus off myself, it is much easier to notice those around me and to offer encouragement.

I want to make a difference right where I am starting with my imperfect, wonderful, messy, glorious, beautiful life! Won't you join me?

Here is a prayer I wrote using a template from the e-course on prayer that my daughter, Jamie, has written and is now teaching. May God grant this for all of us.

I'm linking up with Lisha Epperson and #GiveMeGrace. I am also updating this to share with Kelly Balarie and the #RaRaLinkup!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Share the Load

This is a recent Five Minute Friday post that I'm now linking up with Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkup. I pray that you will be encouraged as you read it.

What does it mean to share? Does it mean to give part of what you own to others because you are told you have to? Is it giving sacrificially?


Is sharing something we do WITH each other? Do we share to help and support one another? Why is it so hard sometimes to share?

God shared so much for us when Jesus took the penalty for our sins. Because of that we can be forgiven, we can be free no matter what we have said or done. Yes, there may be consequences for our actions, but we can lose the guilt and be free because we are forgiven.

If we who know God have been given so much, then shouldn't we be more willing to give freely to others? Sharing our lives with others will often encourage them. If we share the burdens of others, we have a part in upholding each other.

My five minutes are up, but I'm not quite finished. When I thought of the word “share” I was drawn to the words of a song written and recorded by my daughter, Jamie Wright Bagley. The song is entitled “A Searching Soul.” She asks questions like, “Why do we seem such worlds apart from each other?” and “Why is it so hard for me to touch your soul?” and “Why do we carry our burdens alone?”

She encourages us to come out of our shells, tell our stories, share our dreams and to work alongside each other, reminding us that our time here on earth is short. She says, “Let's face reality. We can't afford formality...” 

Please take time to listen to “A Searching Soul” on Jamie's website. May it speak to all of us. May we be willing to open our hearts and hands to reach out to each other. If we share our stories we may be surprised at how many people will be blessed and encouraged because of our words.

While you are there take some time to enjoy some of her other songs and take a look around. You'll be glad you did.

Don't forget to stop in at Kate's place for other Five Minute Friday writings!

I'm also linking this up with Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkup!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Empower: You Can Do It - Cleaning Your Fridge

(It has taken me awhile to get this blog post written, because I couldn't seem to find the time to finish the job I planned to write about. I started to rewrite the whole thing but decided to leave in the first few paragraphs from January 17, when I originally started writing it.)

(I love the view on my walk in the woods)

I'm so happy to see the sun today! The temperature is a little warmer so I plan to be outside later just to take a walk and enjoy the outdoors. Right now I'm relaxing with a cup of Mint Melange tea from Trader Joe's. After dust mopping floors, dusting furniture and doing laundry it's time for a break. I'm listening to one of my favorite albums by Downhere called “Two At A Time.” The songs are very encouraging and mostly upbeat. One of my favorites is "One Small Step."

The other day I started cleaning the refrigerator. It really had a disgusting mixture of food gone bad. I guess I just kept avoiding it because it was a dreaded job. When it is as dirty as it is now it's hard to even get started. (If I would keep up with it each week there would not be such a lot to clean.)

Finally, I knew I had to just jump in, grab that bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. It wasn't fun, but I took ALL the bad food out. The solid stuff went into a bag for the freezer to wait for the trip to the dump. The liquid I just poured down the drain.

Then came the job of washing all the dirty, somewhat smelly containers. I fixed up a sink full of hot dishwater and washed every single bowl, jar and lid. The whole process including getting rid of the food probably took close to an hour. By that time I was ready to stop for awhile. I thought I'd get to cleaning the fridge itself later on the same day.

That was eight days ago.

It is now the evening of January 21, and I still have not cleaned the inside of the refrigerator. I almost tried to push myself to get it done tonight, so I could finish the blog post. I quickly realized that doing so would defeat the purpose of the series showing you the steps I take on my journey to clean my house and get rid of clutter.

I thought I'd have finished the whole refrigerator job by now, but other things took precedence. You probably have jobs, too, that you wish you could complete for once without an interruption. You start with good intentions, but one thing leads to another and before you know it a week has gone by and your project is still unfinished - like me and my refrigerator.

That's why baby steps are so important. Take the big job and break it down into steps, even if you have to do a little each day to finally complete it. It may not be ideal, but the job will eventually get done. Sometimes there is just not time to do the big jobs all in one go. Maybe our expectations of how long something should take are unreasonable. We don't take into account interruptions and we get frustrated and are hard on ourselves.

By breaking it up you can accomplish any chore or project without feeling guilty that it took you so long.

Tomorrow I hope to get back to the fridge and at least get a couple of shelves done. If that is all I have time for I will be content. That will be one baby step, and eventually I will get it done.

Next week I'll be back with PART  2 and hopefully pictures of a clean refrigerator!

I'd love for you to visit my other posts in the Empower: You Can Do It series.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Send Me?

Once again it is Five Minute Friday time! This week the one word prompt is SEND.

I found out last night about the prompt and it sparked the beginning of a little poem in my imagination. Of course I spent a lot of time thinking about it so it really couldn't be included as something written in just five minutes. So I will share it at the end of the post.

(Taken Dec. 14 in the woods by my house)


As I was thinking about the word send, my thoughts went back to when I was a young teenager. After hearing missionaries speak at my church, I was convinced that God wanted me to be a missionary. I wondered where He might send me.

After one evening of listening to a missionary speak, I told her of my desire and asked what she would recommend for me to learn in order to follow my desire.  She told me to learn everything I could about any and everything, because being a missionary was not just telling people about Jesus.

Years have passed since then, and I never made it to a foreign field, but God has sent me to many places.  Early in our marriage before children my husband and I actually spent a week at Wheaton College for missionary training with a mission board. WE had planned to go to Venezuela, but as we found out more and realized that our children would be sent to boarding schools when they became school age, we decided that we would wait and maybe go after our children grew up.

Well, we never made it to another country, but God did send us to many places throughout the USA. I only hope that I was able to make a difference in a good way in people's lives, just as they had ministered to me.


Here's the little poem I promised with a drawing to go with it. Enjoy!

           Send me a package
           if you please,
           a cute little teddy bear
           I can squeeze.

           Send me a letter
           every day.
           Make sure to include all you
           want to say.

           Send me some pictures
           you have made.
           Show me all the places
           you have stayed.

           And when they send you
           back to me,
           imagine just how happy
           we will be.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll hop on over to Five Minute Friday and read what others have been prompted to say about the word SEND.

#fmfparty #drawing #poetry #photography #amwriting

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Empower: Give Yourself Grace

(some flowers to cheer you)

Last week I began a series that I am calling Empower: You Can Do It, and I talked about how I can feel overwhelmed with all the clutter and messiness of my house. There have been times when I would think to myself,

What's the use? How could doing one small thing make any difference? I will never get to the end of it.

So I would ignore it and go do something else like art, reading, writing, going outside, taking photographs – anything to get my mind off the seemingly insurmountable job.

I decided that I was tired of it and something had to be done. Maybe part of it is my #oneword365 for this year – intentional – that helped me realize if anything was going to be done about the clutter I would have to be intentional about it. 

That's when I decided to make up the wood furniture cleaning/polishing solution. You can read about that in last week's post, and how that one simple job that took only a few minutes really lifted my spirits.

Sometimes, even bigger jobs don't take as long as we think they will once we get started. We are expecting company this weekend, but the room where they will be staying has been neglected for awhile since it isn't slept in very often. I decided my one thing today would be to clean that room.

Of course the cat decided he had to come, too. I'm convinced he thinks he's a dog. He will bring us toys, drop them in front of us and start making a lot of noise. What he wants is for us to throw the toy so he can run after it and bring it back. So while I was picking up trash, trying to toss dirty socks into the clothes hamper across the room, he would run back and forth thinking I was playing with him.

After picking up the floor and clearing off surfaces, I grabbed my trusty furniture polish from last week and took a few minutes to clean the furniture. Then I ran the vacuum and I was done! It probably didn't take more than half an hour, but a lot was accomplished.

Sometimes half the battle is getting started.

What about the days that come and you just don't feel like doing even one small thing? Does that mean you should feel guilty and be miserable all day because you feel like you didn't accomplish anything? No, absolutely not. Some days may be so demanding with your daily routine that when you have a minute what you need to do is rest and just be still.

There is grace for days like that.

Those of us who are mothers have a lot on our plates, especially if there is a newborn involved or toddlers running around. We need to be kind to ourselves.

We don't find our identities in how much we accomplish each day.

I was tired on Monday, and instead of doing lots of work, I sat and read a book most of the day. Truth be told I spent so much time reading it that I stayed up way too late that night finishing it, but I don't feel guilty about it. It's what I needed and was also inspiring.

I read an article over the weekend by Esther Emery entitled A Plea forGrace, and Some Discussion of What Grace Really Is. I want to share a portion of my comment in response to her article here, because I think it's something we all need to be reminded of daily.

There is grace enough for all of us no matter how bad we feel. Grace helps us push back those lies about our identities. Grace shows us we are loved and have been made new even though we may still have triggers and still doubt and still fail. Grace tells us we can get back up again and God is right there with us to lift us up and walk with us.

Please go easy on yourself. Try to find at least one small thing you can do each day to bring encouragement even if it's just taking time to read something. If you don't have time to read something, step outside for a few minutes for a breath of fresh air. If there is not even time for that, just close your eyes for a few seconds, take a few deep breaths and let your body relax for that short time.

Remember there is grace for all.

If you get a chance, go read Esther's article. You will be encouraged.

I'd love to hear from you. Was this article encouraging to you? Are you feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break? I hope you'll take time for yourself today. Read a book, work in an art journal, write, or just take a nap. Know that you are important and there is grace for all.

I'm a little late but am linking up with Lisha Epperson and #GiveMeGrace.
This post is also linked to Kelly Balarie's Cheerleading #RaRaLinkup.

I'd love for you to read more in my Empower: You Can Do It series.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Warm Welcome

Today is the first Five Minute Friday of this new year. The one word prompt is Welcome. 

Today is another sunshiny day but still cold. I love the sunshine. It seems to say, “Welcome to this new day!”

When clouds cover the sky, rain is pelting down and the air feels chilled, it's not so welcoming to me.  Don't get me wrong. I love the rainy days, too, for reading and drinking hot chocolate or writing or playing around with paints and colored pencils.

But there is something about the sunshine that makes me come alive. It's so bright and cheery and I like to be cheered. I seem to have more incentive to work on the bright, sunny days.

I want to be a welcoming person to those I meet. I want them to feel the warmth and love from my hospitality even if my house isn't perfect. No one really feels welcome in a perfect house anyway, if one actually exists.

(We might ask you to join in a game of Scrabble)

What is important is to let people know you want them in your home. You welcome them with food, with love, with a listening heart. They want to keep coming back because they know you are genuinely interested in them.

Go to Five Minute Friday to learn more about how it all works. You'll be welcomed!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Empower: You Can Do It {Introduction}

The sun is shining brightly today making it look very warm outside, but looks can be deceiving. It is below freezing out there with a wind chill factor that makes it very cold for upstate South Carolina. My husband is outside splitting wood. I'm cozy and warm in my living room with the wood stove cranking out the heat with a fan that spreads it around the room.

I have a nice warm cup of Typhoo tea that just hits the spot. Lots of thoughts are swirling in my head, and I'm glad for this new year. It gives me a chance to make some changes, to be intentional about what I do so that the changes I make enhance our living rather than drag our spirits down.

The dust and the dirt and the clutter have been around so long that we tend to look past it or ignore it. We get lost in cyberspace or art or writing, anything to keep us from focusing on making our house an expression of ourselves, a place for people to feel welcomed and loved. Sometimes the mess can't be helped and I believe we can still welcome visitors even in the midst of it, and they can feel welcome.

I am not looking for a spotless, magazine-worthy house. That is so not me. I truly want to live more simply, and get rid of extra things that weigh me down. When you live in a place for 17 years, once having about 13 living here for a few weeks, but mostly 9 of us for many years, clutter builds up. It doesn't happen overnight, but if you don't weed things out on a regular basis you will find that it creeps up on you until one day you feel like it is taking over.

It's enough to make the best of us want to crawl into a hole so we don't have to look at it. We feel like giving up before we even get started. We tell ourselves it's no use so we might as well ignore it and go do what we want, so we do just that. But that is just a bandaid solution for the moment. Sure, doing something else can make us feel a whole lot better, but it doesn't make the clutter go away, and when we are done, it's still there.

I'm not saying we should wait until everything is as we want it before we stop to enjoy ourselves. That would be a big mistake. I don't know what I would do without my art and my writing to give me a creative outlet, to sort of recharge before jumping into work. What I am trying to tell myself is that procrastinating, even if I'm doing what I like, is just going to prolong the problem. 

What I need is a solution, a plan to jump start, some little baby steps to start making my home a beloved place for me and all who enter.

How do I start? Where do I start? 

It's just too hard. I can't do it, or can I? 

What if I just did one thing a day to make improvements? Would it really make any difference? Well, I have proof that it does! 

Today I made a simple solution of water, mineral oil and a few drops of lemongrass essential oil. I took a cloth and used the mixture to clean the piano, coffee and end tables and the dining table.

What a difference it made! It actually gives me incentive to keep going to make things nice. All of it took no more than 20 minutes, but it was surprising how good it made me feel, even though most of the house is still messy. 

(see how shiny the table is now?)

I wish I had thought to take before pictures, but at the time I didn't even have a blog post in mind. I had been praying earlier and thinking about what I do on my blog that might encourage others, but nothing seemed to come to me. I just felt stuck. 

When I sat down to start writing about my day, something seemed to click. Maybe other people feel stuck like I do, overwhelmed, not knowing where to start.

If I made this a series, sharing each week the baby steps I take, it would not only keep me accountable but might also encourage others. My daughter Jamie suggested I use the word empower for the series. I wasn't quite sure why until she gave this explanation: “That's what's in your way. In everyone's way. The confidence that we CAN.”

The more I thought about it the more I realized she was right. I was thinking I had no ideas that others haven't already come up with, but then I realized that was scarcity talking as my friend Abby Norman likes to point out. We are all individuals, and even if we talk about the same thing we will have a different way of saying it.

So my Empower: You Can Do It series is born! I like that title because it doesn't matter what you are struggling with. It might be clutter like I have or some other issue that is bothering you, big or small. I am here to cheer you on with these words.


Any of us can take one tiny step at a time in the direction we want to go, even if that step is only an idea. Take the idea, mull over it in your mind, and find a way to start with one tiny baby step. 

(local pussywillows)

I hope to make this a weekly event sharing what I learn and the steps I take. It helps to have encouragement from others, so if anyone would like to comment, share ideas, or baby steps you have taken I would love to hear from you!

I am linking up with Kelly Balarie's Cheerleaders of Faith #raralinkup.  Join us and find encouragement from others who share.

Please visit my other posts in the Empower: You Can Do It series.

#tips #encouragement #photography #empower #series #babysteps #youcandoit #incentive #house #clutter #cheer #ideas #homemadefurniturepolish #essentialoil #improvements #enough #noscarcity

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Intentional, With Grace

As I shared last week, my #oneword365 is intentional. It was suggested somewhere that I write a poem about the word, and I chose an acrostic, because I thought it might be fun. Using each letter of the word as the first line I wrote about what being intentional might do for me this year. Hope you enjoy!

Intended to bring order
Needed for my sanity
Thoughtful planning
Energizing my schedule
Noteworthy accomplishments
Tenaciously working
Ideally motivated
Open to changes
Numbered list to check off
Advisedly helpful
Love to cover all

(sunset through the woods)

I realize that being intentional does not mean I will always have it together or that my days will go smoothly. I do need to make plans, and I need to be disciplined in order to carry out those plans. This does not insure they will always work out. Proverbs 16:9 says:

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Some days will have interruptions. There will be times when it seems I am being pulled in many different directions at once. It would be so easy to let those cause me stress and react to them in a way that would leave me frazzled. Believe me, that has happened plenty of times, but God is loving and patient and offers forgiveness. There is grace for me and I don't have to fall into a puddle of misery and shame.


Hebrews 4:14,15 reminds me that Jesus, our high priest is able to sympathize with us because he has been tempted just like we have, only without sin. Because of that we are told in verse 16 of that same chapter:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

When my best intentions seem to go awry I need to remember that God directs my paths. Those interruptions may be just what I need to keep my focus on Him and not on myself, to realize that He is the one who gives me strength. I must lean on Him and trust that He knows best.

(first page in my 2015 Art Journal)

When I remember that He is with me in every situation, it makes it possible to go forward knowing that He will ultimately work things out for good. That does not mean it will be easy or that I will not have pain or sadness. What it does mean is that I can still have peace and a joy that goes deep knowing that He is walking with me through it.

I will still try to be intentional. I will make my plans to systematically de-clutter my house as I mentioned last week. When the interruptions come to keep me from my task, I will do my best to be intentional about meeting them with grace and extending grace to whoever needs me at that time.

What about you? What do you do when your plans crumble and your best intentions go wrong? I pray that we will all remember the words Paul gives us in II Corinthians 12:9,10:

But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses,
insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.