Friday, July 31, 2015

Comfort in the Ordinary

The word for our #wholemama linkup this week is ordinary. When I think of the word ordinary, I think of simple, common, unremarkable. Business as usual in the everyday routine of life.

Nothing special.

Grass and weeds and flowers and trees grow and die. The sun shines or clouds shower us with rain. Seasons come and go. Dogs run around being curious, then lie on the porch panting loudly. We get up each day, eat our meals, do our work, then go to bed only to rise the next morning and do it all over again.

Life goes on.

When I see the same things every day, my eyes tend to pass right over them without a thought. I just expect them to be there. All the appliances are in the same place doing their jobs, except when they break. Beds are in the bedrooms. Food is in the kitchen. Mugs hang below a shelf while various things have collected on top. Tiny teapots are on a small display cabinet. It's the same every day.

What if we looked at ordinary with new eyes?

What if with a closer look, we discover that ordinary can be quite extraordinary?

This delicate ceramic doll was a gift from my grandmother in 1966.I was 14 years old. Using ordinary materials like lace and a bed sheet she created the beautiful dress.It has survived through many moves with the only damage being a broken finger and loss of some of the lace. I see this doll every day thinking nothing about it, but when I pause to look at it remembering my grandmother and the love she put into it, I find joy.

What if we looked closer at our lives and our possessions?

I think we would find much to be thankful for. If we slow down and intentionally look for the beauty throughout our day, we just might be surprised at what we find.

I see this cross stitch collection every day without a second thought. Taking a closer look I see the detail and remember all the hard work that went into sewing them. I only did one of them while my super talented mother did the others. Looking at them reminds me of her and her loving hands. Nothing ordinary about that.

We may get tired of seeing the same objects day after day, but there is a comfort in knowing that some things never change.The sun rises daily with all kinds of possibilities awaiting us. As it goes down at night the moon comes out faithfully just as God has planned. It may seem ordinary, but is it really?

(photography by gayl)

We can ask God to help us look for comfort and peace in the ordinary, to practice gratitude for the simple things, to be aware of opportunities to bless others. A smile goes a long way to bring light to someone which in turn brightens our day, too. 

Let's be whole mamas who take our ordinary days and make them extraordinary!

Will you join me?

Come on over to Esther's place and find what others have shared about what ordinary means to them. We'd love to have you join and linkup with us!

I'm also linking this to Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkup. There you will find words of encouragement from many lovely ladies!

I'm late to the party, but I'm also linking up with Lisha Epperson and #GiveMeGrace.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Welcoming Spaces
Oh, how I dream of having uncluttered SPACE. When I look at all the stuff that has accumulated over the years I am overwhelmed at the immensity of it. Most every flat area has stacks. There are even stacks of containers in the closets. Our downstairs garage turned into a bedroom has now become a catchall. It even houses a Hammond organ and a hammered dulcimer! Our entertainment center is overflowing with DVDs, videos and games of all sorts. We have boxes of who knows what because they haven't been looked at in years.

What am I to do? Can I even find any space to call my own?

We have played musical bedrooms with our children so many times that we each have things in each room. Since we live in a log home there are only 3 small closets in various places and one large one which happens to be in our bedroom. Instead of only holding what belongs to my husband and me, it has stuff left from practically all seven of our kids. Most of what is in there can probably be thrown away.

How did it get so bad? Why can't we just get rid of it?

We have saved many things, but if we needed some of them now we probably couldn't find them or wouldn't even remember that we had them. I don't know about you, but when there is clutter all around, I feel weighed down. It is like tentacles reaching out, holding me back, keeping me in a rut that is continually getting deeper, threatening to swallow me whole.

I gasp for air and decide once and for all that I will not succumb to its grasp.

We made some progress today. My husband took several bags of clothes, shoes, etc. to a thrift store. I can't say that things look much different, but at least we got started. That makes me breathe a little easier as we have taken a step forward. He has even decided that it's time to repair the kitchen counter and the upstairs bathroom floor. I will not stand in the way but will help all I can.

I can just imagine all the space we will have when we finally finish.

It may take months, but I am determined to get on top of it. It's not that we can't do things while the clutter exists, it's just that we would feel better without it. I want our house to be a place where every room is enjoyable, a place that's easier for my son to maneuver his wheelchair, a place where people love to come and have a good time, a place with space for us to pursue our artistic interests, a place where messes can be made and cleaned up, a place that mirrors our unique personalities.

Impossible? I don't think so.

I think with determination and a sense of what we are working towards will give us the push we need. In the meantime, I do have a small area in my room that I can retreat to when I need some alone time. When the weather is not too hot I can sit on the front porch either at the picnic table or on the swing. Armed with my journal, a pen and a cup of tea I can sit out there and write to my heart's content. I can also take a walk, so there is plenty of space for me when I need to get away from the clutter for a time.

A perfect getaway may not exist, but a bit of creativity works wonders.

With the right attitude I can turn almost any spot in my home into a small retreat center. When I need time alone without interruption I can let other family members know that I should not be disturbed for a time. The same courtesy can be extended to them when they need time alone for their particular interests or when any of us need time to spend alone with God and our thoughts.

What about you? How do you find space when you need some time alone?

Come join us at the #wholemama linkup where you can read what others say about space and even share your own thoughts in a blog post or the comments.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Creation Beauty

Join me in a walk to see what beauty we can find as we keep our eyes open, praising God for His amazing handiwork.

I love sunny days with fluffy white clouds in a blue sky!

There is such intricate detail even in this dandelion!

These rocks are a peaceful place to sit at the edge of the woods.

These tiny flowers are found scattered throughout our property.

This passion flower is one of many on the vines around our house.

There is so much beauty all around us. Sometimes we are too busy to see it. Thank you for accompanying me on this warm, summer day. May God bless you throughout your week and give you peace!

I'm linking up with Barbie Swihart and The Weekend Brew and Letetia Mullenix for Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday and Kelly Balarie with the #RaRaLinkup and Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart, and #GiveMeGrace.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


For our #wholemama linkup this week we are talking about prayer. A simple definition might be just talking to God, but I believe prayer is much more than that. For as long as I can remember prayer has been important to me. In the past I have journaled some of my prayers, and recently I have taken that up again.

My desire to pray more regularly has grown stronger through the years. The ecourse on prayer that Jamie Bagley led earlier this year was very helpful, and I would like to put together an ebook with the prayers I wrote at that time. I have good intentions to pause periodically during the day to pray, but I often forget or let other things steal my time. It's a work in progress.

Monday evening after I read and commented on a few blog posts, I had intended to go upstairs to spend time in prayer before bed. I thought I'd play a little Spider Solitaire first as a break. Well, over half an hour later, after much yawning and playing #onemoregame to try to win, I finally stopped. By that time I was really sleepy, but I did grab my prayer journal to write in as I sat in bed and prayed. Here is a portion of that prayer:

I want to always be in prayer, able to communicate
with God at any time, to pray as I go about the day.
Please help me to recognize the ordinary moments and
realize that my prayer can be said out loud, or thought,
or written, or even through various types of art without
words. Lord, draw me close to You and enable me to be
aware of how I can pray throughout the day. Help me
to desire You and to know You better and love you more.
Help me to always find my peace in You. Thank you, Lord,
that You hear and answer prayer. Please help me to trust
and love You more, to love myself and my family, and to
reach out to others and love them, too. I love you, Lord.

(photography by gayl)

When I woke up the next morning I was thinking about what to write for the #wholemama blog post. I wanted it to be real, authentic and personal so others could relate. I sat down in my chair by the window and thanked God for the sunshine of the morning. I continued...

Things look brighter with the sunshine. I pray that my life
would bring sunshine and brighten the days of those around
me. I am only one person and I am not always the strong one
or the happy one, but even through my weakness You can
demonstrate your power. May I be a willing vessel. 
I want my life to honor You, God. Forgive me when I fail.
Give me joy and peace that I might share with others.

After having breakfast I went outside hoping to find some inspiration as I took photos, walked and prayed. I came across a large crack in the driveway where several different kinds of plants were growing. I marveled and thanked God for the variety right in that small area.

(photography by gayl)

I continued walking down the driveway thinking about prayer, still looking for inspiration. I noticed the proliferation of all the greenery everywhere, and I wondered about what purpose there was for all the growth. Then I thought about how the weeds take over when left to themselves along with lots of rain and sunshine. Even the helpful plants spread out everywhere when they are not given attention. Still I am thankful for the growth and the harvest we have received.

(photography by gayl)

At the start of my walk there was a nice breeze making it pleasant in the shade. It was getting quite warm in the sun, so I trudged back up the driveway thinking it might be cooler on the porch. Sitting on the swing I continued thinking about prayer, still wondering how to coherently put my thoughts together.

(photography by gayl)

One thing I have learned is that you cannot force yourself to feel a connection to God.

You can try to do all the right things you've been told regarding how to pray, but there really is no perfect formula. I may not always feel God's presence but I pray because I need to.

God wants me to pray and in the Bible we are told to “pray without ceasing.” I've wondered what that really looks like. Obviously we can't go find a quiet place and stay there all the time praying constantly. No one is able to do that.

What exactly does "pray without ceasing" look like?

I like to think of it as having an open line of communication with God. He is always with me so I should be able to talk with Him any time. We can have a conversation with Him no matter where we are.

I mentioned earlier that I was wondering how to coherently put my thoughts together. Maybe I don't really need to. When we come to God in prayer it need not be in a nice little package. We might have random thoughts just as I did while wandering around outdoors.  

When the words don't come readily and we're not sure how to pray, the Holy Spirit can make sense of it for us. We may express our feelings through art or music or some other form, but I believe God sees and understands. 

(photography by gayl)

What about you? What does prayer mean to you? Do you have creative ways to find time for prayer?

Join us at #wholemama to read what others have to say. You'll also find an encouraging video of Esther Emery and Sarah Bessey talking about the "holiness of our days."

Monday, July 13, 2015

Finding Rest

For her #GiveMeGrace post Lisha Epperson wrote about needing Sabbath rest. Our bodies were made to work but not endlessly. Our bodies were also made to need rest. God even took the seventh day to rest after creating the world, even though He never tires. I think he was giving us a pattern. By working six days, then taking a day to rest, we are able to be refreshed, to give our bodies time to recuperate from the busyness of the other days.

Lisha spoke about finally listening to her body telling her to stop. She, like all of us, needs time to be free to rest, to spend time talking and listening to God, to simply sit and do nothing for awhile if need be. Sometimes that rest can look like a walk alone in the outdoors, painting a picture or practicing some other form of art, or anything that gives you a break from your regular, everyday routine.

The past couple of weeks were pretty busy for me, and today there were a few things planned. I realized that I was not going to be able to do it all, but it would be hard to decide what to leave out. Because I had been away from home a lot it seemed to me that it would be best to stay home today. So I eliminated any activity that would entail going out so that I could rest and be refreshed. 

Walking through my ever-spreading garden I was able to find a few ears of corn and some tomatoes. Believe it or not that was a restful activity for me. It's exciting to see how things grow and produce food.

I have spent some time relaxing and listening to music, and also writing and praying. I believe I made the right choice and my body will thank me for giving it time to be at rest. 

May God enable each of us to recognize when we need to stop to rest, and give us wisdom and strength to do just that.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mess: Ignore It or Tackle It?

This week's prompt for the #wholemama linkup is the word mess. I am very familiar with mess. When my children were young it seemed like an endless display of mess everywhere. And guess what? I'm still dealing with mess. 

I have really been struggling with clutter, wanting to do something about it but not knowing where to start. When you've lived in the same house for 16 years with people coming and going and saving things, you really get a buildup if you don't stay on top of it. But I can't put all the blame on others, because I'm also part of the problem.

Here is the place where I pray, write, and dabble in art. It's a bit messy and so is the room where it is located. Often I ignore the mess and do something I enjoy instead of cleaning up.

I love having things clean and in order, but it's not always possible to stay on top of it. I would love to find a way to finally rid my house of all the clutter and keep it that way.

Awhile back I was told about a bookthe life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo. Since it was touted as the best thing around to help you clean up and have an uncluttered house, I requested a copy from my local library. My name was at the bottom of the queue, so it would be months before it was available. Apparently lots of people were interested in reading it.

To be honest I had completely forgotten about the book until the title came up a couple of days ago when I was perusing an online article.

Later that day I got a call from the library that the book was ready to be picked up. 

That same night on the #wholemama Fuze call Jamie mentioned something from the book, because she had been using it. 

Then I remembered that another daughter of mine also has it and recommends it.

Okay, Okay, I thought to myself, I think I get the message. I'll give it a chance. What have I got to lose?

Well, I was in for a surprise. Marie has a totally different approach to addressing the clutter problem than what you find in other “get rid of clutter” books. I've only just started reading the book, but there is a lot to think about in the first few pages.

She thinks those who claim to be storage experts are really hoarders, and that containers only hide the clutter. 

She doesn't think much about cleaning by areas. You could find yourself going through the same sort of stuff every day not making much progress, because you've got similar items stored in different places.

Another popular idea is to clean a little at a time, but Marie says this doesn't work either. We end up bringing in more than we take away or we get frustrated because it takes so long. She believes by doing a little each day we will be forever cleaning.

For most of us, after we clean, it seems no time before the areas become messy again.

Marie believes this has to do with our mindset. Her claim is that in order to keep things tidy “ is essential to thoroughly reassess your habits and assumptions about tidying.” She says, “Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. Of the two, discarding must come first.”

She suggests decluttering by categories, going through things one by one, discarding what you don't want, like or need. To me this is probably the hardest thing. There is so much clutter in my house that the thought of taking things one by one seems insurmountable, but I realize it needs to be done.

Marie thinks the reason clutter happens is not just a physical thing, but that it masks a deeper problem.

Once you get rid of all the physical clutter, you are able to turn your attention to your mind and address things you may not realize have been bothering you. The clutter acts as a distraction. She says, “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”

I might try decluttering her way and see what happens. Who knows? Maybe she is right. 

It may take me awhile and I might get discouraged in the process. 

I will still have to ignore some of the mess so that I don't let special moments pass me by. 

I'll continue to enjoy my coffee each morning and try to meet interruptions with grace.

When I imagine what it would be like to have fewer possessions, not skimping on needs, but surrounding ourselves with things we actually love, it's like a weight falling off my shoulders. When you minimize stuff you optimize the beauty of your home. With less to clean you have freedom to spend more time doing what you enjoy.

Ahh... I can dream, can't I?

What about you? How do you deal with clutter and mess in your house? 

I find that sometimes I ignore it and other times I tackle it. I guess it depends on what mood I'm in. :)

Don't forget to stop by the #WholeMama linkup to see what others have shared. Some are pretty funny stories.

I'm also linking up with Holley Gerth and #CoffeeforYourHeart!

Monday, July 6, 2015

June Highlights

After 26 years I am no longer a homeschool mom. My youngest graduated high school. I guess you could say an era is over. Part of the month was used to get him ready for a trip to Japan. We said goodbye to him at the Atlanta airport on June 28 and we will pick him up again July 27. He is having a great time and learning a lot.

One of the first things I did in June was to set up a place in my room to use for praying and writing and even art journaling. It has become one of my favorite spots.You can read more about that in this post: A Welcome Respite.

Speaking of art journaling I have done a few pages this month, mostly collage or found poetry.

We have gotten a little bit of a harvest from our garden areas even though they are somewhat overgrown. This year we tried growing sweet corn and it is delicious. We have enough blueberries that I've been able to freeze some to save for later.

A favorite of this month has been joining in with other women for some summer encouragement via twitter, instagram and blog linkups with the hashtag #WholeMama. You can read all about it on EstherEmery's post.

You may call me a bookworm when you see the sampling of the books I've either read or started reading in June:

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman – actually I'm going through it for a second time.
Live Uncaged by Mary DeMuth (presently free on Amazon kindle)
Pray,Write, Grow by Ed Cyzewski
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
By God's Design by my friend and a member of my church, Judith Hartzell
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
Orthodoxy by G.K.Chesterton (only $.99 Amazon kindle) is one I have recently read and one of the best.

As you can see there is a bit of variety in my choices. Some were recommended and since others are by friends, I wanted to see what they had to say. I have a habit of starting too many books, so I need to get busy finishing a few :)

An ongoing activity for the month of June has been my participation in a karate class held at my church. Right at the end of May I earned my yellow belt which is the first belt with a rank. I enjoy learning right along with my sons. Here is a copy of my membership card.

Last but not least, we traded in our Mazda CX-9 for a Ford CMax Hybrid. It gets over 40 MPG, and with our weekly trips to Greenville for church, karate and sometimes shopping that will be a blessing. So far we are enjoying it very much.

These are some of my June highlights. I forgot to mention that we went to see the movie "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," and enjoyed it very much.

What about you? I'd love to know what you were up to last month. To see what others have shared please visit Leigh Kramer's What I'm Into linkup.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunshine After Rain

It is Sunday afternoon. The rain is coming down hard and fast. The trees are dancing in the wind with the accompaniment of the melodic chimes. I'm relaxing in a recliner in the living room enjoying the view from my front window.

There is something peaceful about the rain. Its steady rhythm as it beats down on the roof is somehow soothing. Sitting here I can lean back and close my eyes listening to the sound, letting my mind wander wherever it will.

Rain is a good thing.

It brings refreshment to a sun soaked earth, quenching the thirst of our tomato plants and corn and wild blackberries. It brings in cooler air to give a little relief from the heat. The tree trunks become a richer brown while the leaves boast a vivid green. The colors stand out all the more with the background of a gray sky.

I'm thankful for the rain even though it sometimes interferes with outdoor plans. It can also make visibility poor while driving. Rivers have been known to rise and cause flooding which in turn may damage houses and crops.

It's interesting to think about how rain can be both nourishing and destructive. In small amounts it provides the water that earth and its inhabitants need. On the other hand, when it rains for days it can cause all kinds of problems.

Isn't most of life like that?

Almost any activity that is helpful can also be harmful. The key is to figure out how much we need and how much is too much, which isn't always easy. Even when we carefully plan our activities, life seems to throw some surprises our way. I had planned to be at home most of last week, because I knew we'd be tired from traveling over the weekend.

All of a sudden my schedule became full and I wondered if I could manage it all.

There was something every single day except for one. Each event involved family, and although sometimes I can decline, this week it all seemed necessary. I found that by taking one day at a time, I was able to get through each activity and also find times to rest. I did pray for wisdom, and I believe God gave me the strength needed to follow through with each event.

After our travels early last week, we came home and attended a birthday party for a grandson turning six. It would have been easy to stay home and not make the 1 1/2 hour trip, but we didn't want to disappoint him. We had a wonderful time as we celebrated together. This picture sums up his excitement:

We ended the week with a cookout and fireworks at home with some of my children and grandchildren. The time spent laughing together, seeing the excitement of the children and the two sons-in-law who handled the fireworks, eating hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream cones, and enjoying the fellowship, brought about a sense of happiness and peace, even though I was tired beforehand.

One family spent the night, and when I asked my granddaughter what she would like to have for breakfast this was her answer, “Let's have pancakes and I will help you like I always do!” Of course I had to grant her request. Ever since she was a toddler she has helped me make the pancakes whenever they would visit. She is now 9 1/2 years old. We all enjoyed the pancakes with maple syrup.

As I've been sitting here, the rain has stopped as quickly as it began and the sun is shining brightly. It reminds me that after darkness, there will always be light. We have had some sad events recently and some ongoing struggles, but even through them there are glimpses of light. God is faithful. He uses friends who pray with us, love with us and laugh with us to bring us closer to Him and each other.

Sunshine after rain is like a smile after tears.

After the rain I walked around outside and thought about a verse from a psalm that in the KJV reads, "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning."