Fresh Starts

With the New Year well underway I wonder how many people have decided they need a fresh start. Perhaps you are looking for a fresh start with your physical health. That seems to be a big priority at this time of year.

My husband always laughs at the fact that prior to the holidays the ads everywhere; are all about food. They show Christmas cookies that can be made. There are recipes for new side dishes at Thanksgiving and lots of ideas for beverages for the New Year celebrations.

After the holidays are done; all the ads seem to be for gym memberships, weight loss plans, exercise equipment and on and on. I must confess my mind was running along those lines this year.

After all the celebrations, my clothes were feeling a bit snug. I am too tight to buy new clothes for my “fatter” stage. I started pondering on the fact that perhaps I should move a bit more.

There was a simple challenge put out by Young Living for it’s members. They call it #NewMeIn90.  The idea is to intentionally move 30 minutes a day. They want you to make small workable changes that will leave you, not just in better health, but feeling better about life in general.

As I was thinking on this concept a friend, Kim, put out a challenge and a link to a 30 day journey into yoga. She did this on Facebook. I quizzed her by asking if this was something an out of shape (very out of shape) older fat woman could do. (I figured I had best start out the year being honest!) She assured me it was doable.

This week I set out to give it a whirl as I figured it would benefit my balance, flexibility and strength. I am happy to report it was going well…..till I hit Day 6. Day 6 is titled, Ignite.

Adriene, the yoga gal (who shall now be named YG) told us we were going to ignite the fire in our belly. I mumbled under my breath that the last 5 days had already been doing that, as I was starting to discover my long lost core. (I had previously not been sure I even had one anymore.)

Day 6 did not go well. After three, crunch- leg and head lifting type things (that started a roaring bonfire in my belly) I gave up that move. She ended that session with smushing up into a small ball with her knees tucked under her and her forehead on the ground.

I am here to tell you, that last pose was another move that didn’t quite work out properly. When you have extra mass around your middle it gets in the way of smushing and doing the deep breathing that YG kept reminding us to do.

Plans are to finish that 30 day challenge. It might not be done gracefully, but I have Kim holding me accountable and that makes me keep going.

It is good to have someone to hold a person accountable. Maybe that should be my goal this year. Be accountable. Do what I say. Finish what I start. Do what I can with what I am given and realize giving your best is good enough.

Perhaps the fresh start the New Year gives us is not just about getting into better physical shape. Perhaps, it is about persevering…..taking the next step….doing the next pose and keeping on even when life is hard.

Maybe YG is right….maybe just taking the time to breathe in and breathe out and being still is a great goal. Maybe it gives us the time to hear that still small voice. Maybe it gives us the space to really see what our Creator has laid out before us. Just maybe, it gives us the peace we need to embrace the gifts we have been given….whatever they might be.

Let us take this fresh start and receive it with joy.  Let’s relish the gift of life and delight in the steps along the way. Let’s take our cue from children….they don’t worry about tomorrow….they just live in the space that is now and enjoy that time.

When you dance,
your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.
It’s to enjoy each step along the way.
-Wayne Dyer

 

 

Happy New Year

New Years 2019

It is hard to imagine that 2019 has already come and gone. I have a feeling I say that every year…..but every year it always does surprise me that another year has come and gone.

This past New Year’s Eve we celebrated; as we always do…with friends. Each year 3 of the couples are in charge of coming up with the evening’s theme, food and games. This year we chose the 20s as we were ringing in the 2020s.

The photo does make me laugh, as our parties are held in our church youth building and alcohol has never been involved. I also have to grin about the candy cigarettes dangling from some mouths. We had candles on the tables that could not be lit, as no one had any matches or lighters…..no one smokes in this group!

Through the night we discovered many new facts about the 20s…..games that were introduced during that time (Yahtzee & Bunco), foods that showed up (Baby Ruth candy bars, Oreos and Red velvet cake), and what people were famous for (I had no idea Corrie Ten Boom was also famous for being the first licensed woman watchmaker during the 20s).

There was lots of laughter and the sharing of stories. The conversation flowed easy, as is normal when friends get together. There are so many memories with this group of people.

Through the years we have shared parties, births of children and grandchildren, deaths of family members, sickness, surgeries, health, weddings, funerals and everything in between. We have shared life and been made better people for that sharing.

The older I get, the more I value friendships. Friends…true friends…get us through life’s hardest moments. Friends know when to help “fix” things and when to sit and listen.

Friends share joys like the joys are theirs and grieve when you grieve. A really good friend allows you to be stupid and doesn’t let you look stupid alone. Friends are family of the heart. This group of people are those type of friends.

May the new year find you with friends. Friends that “stick closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24). May you be richly blessed with relationships of the heart and bless those friends in return.

Happy New Year my friends!

 

The greatest gift of life is friendship,
and I have received it.

Tangled

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It is already December 13 and the tree is finally up and it actually is totally decorated…..except for the candy canes that will get put on at the last minute. For some reason Christmas decorating at our home seems to take a while to wind up and get started.

I am thinking it is because I kind of hate to take down the fall decorations and give in to the fact that it is the winter season. But…..the day arrived and my husband retrieved the totes that held the tree and all that is needed to make our house festive and lit for the holiday.

As I took the strands of lights out of the freezer bags I had stored them in; my husband started laughing. He thought my balls of light strands resembled something from the movie Christmas Vacation. Since he was right on that thought, I let him share in the joy of untangling those strands of lights.20191211_165750125099464.jpg

My Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas holiday seem to tangle all through each other and this year has been no exception. As I was making Christmas cookies I was also finishing up baking out my pumpkins from the garden.

I can probably justify the pumpkin baking as I do make a pumpkin pie for dessert for Christmas dinner. We have some die-hard pumpkin pie lovers at our house that day.

There is something wonderful about the tangling of seasons and holidays. It seems to reflect the tangling of life and the tangling of days. At least my days and my life sometimes resemble that strand of lights that come out of the bag as a ball.

It takes patience to unsnarl that strand of lights. It takes a gentle touch and a sense of calm. There is a lot to be learned when untangling strands of Christmas lights. Things like handling life with patience.  Treating others with a gentle touch.  Remaining calm when faced with situations that look impossible to straighten out.

Let’s take time this holiday season to deal gently with those around us…..you never know what they are dealing with or how snarled their life is. Let’s be patient and calm when the world seems to be going to fast and seems cruel…..let’s untangle those strands and let our lights shine.

 

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man
by the way he handles these three things:
a rainy holiday,
lost luggage,
and tangled Christmas tree lights.
~Anonymous 52-year-old,
quoted in H. Jackson Brown, Jr.,
Live and Learn and Pass It On, 1991

 

 

 

 

Wrong Side Of the Fence

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Today was finally the day…we finally got around to getting the chicken coop ready for the winter. That pretty much involves cleaning out the nesting boxes, removing the roost, cleaning up the floor and putting down plenty of new wonderful smelling pine shavings.

Needless to say, the girls did not seem to appreciate the effort. My best guess is they just got so used to the coop gradually getting dirtier that they did not notice that a clean up was overdue.

For some reason the cleaning seemed to confuse the girls. When it was time to go in for the night; one of them ended up on the wrong side of the fence. Instead of retracing her steps to get back to the right side, she just kept running back and forth in front of the chicken run. I am not sure if she thought a door would magically appear or what.

It took a bit of urging and herding to get her where she needed to be. It was rather funny to see her run as fast as she could to get in the coop when she finally figured out where she was. It is really too bad that chickens don’t have faces that show much expression…..perhaps that is why they can be so vocal?

I am kind of thinking that I am a bit (okay…maybe a lot) like those chickens. I resist change…even if it is for my own good.  When I am not where I am supposed to be it sometimes takes a lot of urging to convince me I need to turn around and head the other way.

The only difference…. my face probably shows my dismay and alarm as I am being urged the right direction. I know I tend to question out loud if I am not comfortable with the situation.

I am fortunate that I have friends and family who make sure I know where I am supposed to be, at pretty much any given time. It is a blessing to have those people in my life. They keep me from running back and forth looking for that magical door.

May this weekend find you with people close by that keep you on the right side of the fence. May you and I be blessed and be a blessing to others as we live life. And may we all be willing to follow the gentle urging needed to keep us going in the right direction.

May we all, end up exactly where we are supposed to be.

“Are you where you are supposed to be?”
Jenn J.

 

Points of View

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Steam rising from the river

Yesterday did not go quite as planned….at least as I had planned. I had planned to rake leaves. And I had planned to do some more last minute Fall outdoor things.

When I woke up yesterday I noticed the gleaming sheen of ice on our porch. There were a few flakes drifting around and I still thought I would be able to rake the thick coating of leaves off the grass in our front yard…..later in the day.

As the morning wore on, the wind started to howl, the snow came down thicker and I realized that lawn raking was not going to be happening. My husband informed me that I could still rake if I wanted to. I assured him that raking a leaf/snow mix was a bad idea.

I had let the girls out in the morning and saw that they were safely tucked into the small shed where they love to dust bath. I vaguely wondered if they would figure out to go in once night came around or if they would not want to walk on fresh fallen snow.

Come about 5:00 in the afternoon I had the answer to my wonderings. When it came time to lock the girls in for the night I was missing five Rhode Island Reds. I went to the house and got a flashlight and trudged back.

Under the non-working pickup in the shed, there were the five birds. Back to the house I went and grabbed a broom. Using the broom I started tapping on the pickup….loudly…and then swinging it around underneath to encourage those girls to make the journey to the coop.  It worked for two of them.

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Enjoying the day after the snow

The last three decided to make life difficult. I would go one way around that vehicle and they would run the other. It didn’t take long and they had wedged themselves behind a large panel of wood.

I would say I was exasperated, but it was way beyond that.  I was to the stage of muttering under my breath about chicken soup tasting good….drumsticks and name-calling. For a space of time, I was starting to think I should be riding that broom instead of using it to try herd chickens.

Fortunately my husband came home and with the aid of a fishing net; the three birds were nabbed and safely installed in the coop for the night. It was too late for me to make it to my Bible Study group…which was a sad thing because I really really needed to go to Bible Study after the chicken chasing event.

I have a feeling those last three girls were scared of something they did not know. The first snow of the season left them feeling uneasy and out of their comfort zone. They did not want to walk on something that was not familiar.

I get that feeling….I don’t like being out of my comfort zone either!  I also do not like taking a path that feels different. It is too scary and you never know what you will encounter when you are asked to go through things that are not the same as before.

It would probably do me good to remember that, when I am asked by my Creator to do something different; it is for my own good when I am herded to the coop…it might be for my safety that I am asked to walk unfamiliar paths. I wonder how many times I am the one upside down in a fish net, squawking up a storm?

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Beauty in the Morning

I also have the feeling those chickens have no idea how beautiful the morning after a snowfall can be.

The fog rising off the river….the trees decked in sparkling ice….and the hush that comes with a small layer of snow.

They cannot appreciate the crunch of icy pellets underfoot and the cold air as it makes your fingers tingle.

This morning was a good morning. I made no plans dependent on weather. The girls were once again enjoying being outdoors. The trees were beautiful. The leaves just might stay where they are, till they disintegrate next spring, and it is all good.

I will try not to squawk to much when guided down unfamiliar paths. I will, instead, try enjoy the view set before me….even though it may be different than I had planned.

 

“There is a sense of danger in leaving what you know,
even if what you know isn’t much.
― John William Tuohy

Canning For The Year

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This has been a wonderful busy fall season. It is amazing what a difference one year has made. Those of you who know me, know that I spent last fall recovering from a bout of West Nile.  I was so grateful this year to be busy with canning, spending time with family and friends and just celebrating how good life is.

For me one of the great things of life, especially the fall, is the canning season. Years ago my grandma canned every bit of produce she could get her hands on. She instilled in me a love of seeing the produce come out of the garden, journey through the canning/preservation process and end up on the pantry shelves.

Sometimes Fall can feel like an ending to a season. I am not sure why, but canning does not feel like giving up on a past season. Canning feels like preparing for a fresh start. Lining shelves with the summer’s bounty is strangely fulfilling and highly addictive.

What starts out as just doing some batches of peaches, applesauce and pizza sauce turns into a hunt for a new recipe to try….a new way to try preserve the produce.  Canning is kind of like putting Summer in a jar and opening it to enjoy on those cold winter days.

For me…..canning is hope….hope that you are prepared….hope that you are ready for what comes…..and the hope that by the time your jars run out, you also run out of cold winter days.

Seeing the shelves lined with filled jars gives such a feeling of contentment. I may be weird in that thought but I am okay with that. I love going into my pantry and just standing there looking at those filled jars.

I tried a new recipe this year. We had such an abundance of watermelon that we could not keep up eating them. We gave melons away, I juiced a couple melons and they still kept producing. Even the chickens got to eat watermelon!

So this year I made watermelon jelly. It is so pretty in the jars and really tastes like watermelon in a jar!  I am so excited that in the middle of a cold dreary winter day I can open a jar and feel like summer is not so far away.

Watermelon Jelly
Yield: Makes five half pints

Ingredients: 
5 cups white sugar
5 tablespoons powdered pectin
6 cups pureed watermelon (remove any seeds prior to pureeing)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

Instructions:
Whisk together sugar and powdered pectin until they are fully integrated. Combine watermelon puree, sugar/pectin and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot.
Bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature of the nascent jelly reaches 220 degrees. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the width of your pot, the heat of your stove and even the weather you’re having. Check set using saucer test before removing it from the heat, to ensure that it will set.
Remove from the heat and pour into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
When time is up, remove from canner and let jars cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. You can eat immediately or store unopened jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Notes:
*This jelly can take up to one week to set. Please give it time.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and here is the link:
https://foodinjars.com/recipe/watermelon-jelly-recipe/
My notes: 
I used the low sugar pectin so it would set up better. Also, make sure to boil till you reach the correct temp as this also helps with setting this jelly.
Do NOT omit the lemon juice or use fresh lemon juice.
this is needed to properly acidify the watermelon for safe canning.
I wait 24 hours before removing the rings.

 

I love having full shelves, but I also love to gift some of the bounty to my children and others. It is fun “shopping” my shelves and filling boxes to send home with them.

I love the fact that, for me, those jars speak of faithfulness. The faithfulness of my Creator in providing for every need. They are more than just food….they are a visual reminder.  Those jars are a way to connect with those that I love and a connection to those who have gone before.

Food is our common ground,
a universal experience.

James Beard 
Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Food_Preservation/#ixzz63Pz248Hn

Summer’s End

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In the past few days there have been several indicators that Fall is fast closing in. Canning season has come to an end. The garden is no longer beautiful and lush.  (It was looking bedraggled and spent so we cleared the debris and my husband pulled a disc through it.) The tall grasses that line the river bank are turning brown and the trees are fast losing their leaves.

The sound of the mornings are even different than a month ago. There is no longer a choir of birds singing at high volume in the gully to the south of us. Wind does not blow softly through the leaves on the trees. It seems to be gaining that winter howl…though I am glad it is not accompanied by snow…….yet!

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An End to Summer Fun

I took the pool down a few weeks back because we were having high winds and they said cooler weather was coming. I figured I should take it down while the weather was nice enough to deal with gallons of water that would probably be landing on me.

It was my concession to the fact that the seasons were indeed changing and I had best be prepared. I had been dragging my feet on that task as I do like the warmer weather, better than snow and cold and ice. It does feel kind of like giving up when I take it down.

I had not really planned on taking a few weeks break from blogging, but it just seemed that every time I was going to sit down and work on a post, another job seemed more pressing. Between the canning, prepping the garden for winter and preparing for the harvesting of our soybean field….time just slipped away.

The neighbor came over and combined the soybeans for us this past week. It is a good job to have finished for the season. There is a comfort in having those bushels safely tucked away at the local elevator.

There is something satisfying about the look of a harvested field. At first glance it looks like an ending. When you take a second glance you see that it is the first step in the preparations for planting next year. It is a beginning.

I love the fact that farming is like a dance. There is an ageless rhythm to the passing of seasons. There is a harmony to the preparing, planting, maintaining and harvesting those fields.

There is a beauty to the golden ripe crops and there is a beauty to the stubble left behind after the combine has done it’s work. There is a rightness to the cycles of the passing seasons and it is so evident as I watch the fields change.

Those fields are so like life….there is beauty in all seasons of life. Sometimes it may seem like giving up as you enter that next season. In all reality it is just a preparation for the next steps of the dance.

Let’s enjoy that change…let’s embrace the ageless rhythm that is life. Let’s open our eyes to the beauty of each step we take. Those endings just might be beginnings…..much like taking in the harvest in order to prepare for planting.

 

“Live each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
— Henry David Thoreau