A Lesson In Hope

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I spoke with a friend last week. There is nothing unusual in that because I tend to speak directly, or through texts with friends everyday. What was unusual was the news she told me.

A friend of hers has been diagnosed with cancer….incurable….inoperable. I know this friend of hers. This friend posted on Facebook and I was blown away at the words she wrote. They were words that acknowledged pain, wondered about the unknown, and her words were fearless.

Her words were HOPE. Not hope in the days spent on earth. Not hope in the friendships. Not hope in the things of this world….but hope in the One who orchestrates our days. They were words of a life to be lived while still alive.

The past week has been a time of news that is not good to our way of thinking. Too many friends, relatives and acquaintances with diagnosis of illnesses that are going to be a challenge and going to bring pain to them and those around them. It has been a week of hearing about family issues that hurt. It had just been one of those weeks.

The news makes us want to ask “Why?” Years ago I had an aunt who answered that question with “Why not me?” It was a perspective shift for me. It is a question I try ask when life seems to pick me up and toss me around like an amusement park ride.

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. What I do know is that hope sustains…hope comforts….and hope never disappoints when your hope is in the One who created you.

Hope gives you the ability to put one foot in front of the other when the way is dark. It sustains through physical, mental, and spiritual anguish.

And so I will watch these people that I know…these people I love…these friends, acquaintances and relatives who make this journey. I am in awe of their faith. I am in awe of the way they handle these days and the thought of the days to come.

They are an inspiration….they are a witness. They have Hope with a capital H because God…..God in the dark and God in the light. He shines and because they have hope they reflect the shine and I stand in awe.

Yes….life is hard and sometimes feels like an amusement park ride that will not let you get off. But Hope……..

 

Hope is being able to see
that there is light despite all of the darkness.
Desmond Tutu

 

New Year….New Choices

New Years Eve 2017

Sometimes I wonder about that saying that goes something like this: The older you get….the wiser you get. I am not really sure that is total truth or just wishful thinking.

This past holiday weekend, I think we have been living in the deep freezer in our area of the country. When you have a high of -9º for the day, it certainly feels like a deep freezer….and when it gets to -24º, it is a certainty.

My husband and I always wonder aloud why we stay living here. I think the answer is somewhere between the fact that this is where we raised our family and this is where we are surrounded by familiar people and things.

Even with the terribly cold temperature there is the comforting thought of knowing that this weather cannot last because it never has. There is the wonderful knowing that if we survive this arctic blast…..spring and summer really are just around the corner.

I think that is what is so great about the New Year holiday. You know the weather more than likely will be extremely cold in an ugly way….but there is also the knowledge that it is the New Year and it will change. You also know that this is the start of another year to possibly do things in life better….so the weather is just an inconvenience.

New Years is kind of like a do over. It is a season of hope that if things have been bad last year….they will get better…..it is a season of realizing that you have made it through the past year and it’s challenges so there is really no reason you cannot make it through the coming year.

New Years is a promise of wonderful things to come, time to remember all the great things of the year that has just passed and choices to be made and the fact you will get to make those choices. You can choose joy in the little things over stress about things you cannot change. You get to choose to live instead of just survive. It is really an amazing gift to be able to make those choices.

Our New Years Eve party, this past year, had a theme of the Rainbow and the promises Bible coloring cardthat come with that rainbow. We did have to grin that our rainbow theme was the old-school rainbow idea that speaks of God’s love and His covenant with us…..not the new version the world has turned it into. We were asked to wear bright colors for the event.

Even though it was cold we did go to the party, and thoroughly enjoyed playing board games with colorful pieces, coloring with pencil colors, eating rainbow colored food, and spending time in great conversation with friends. We wondered about how wise we really were, heading off into the night when temperatures dropped to 20+ below! Sometimes you just have to make the choice to leave your cozy fire, brave the cold and enjoy the gift of gathering.

May this New Year bring hope, love and friends to spend time with. May you be blessed by the living of life and the days to do so. I pray your hearts are warm on the coldest of days and during the bleakest of times.   And may you choose joy in those times and life….every day of the coming year. Blessings to you in the New Year.

 

Today I choose life.
Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain…
To feel the freedom that comes from
being able to continue to make mistakes and choices
– today I choose to feel life,
not to deny my humanity but embrace it.
Kevyn Aucoin

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Another Crafting Day

 

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This past week was another busy one.  Some things made for busyness because of the time of year. Things like daisies needing to be dug out, due to night temperatures dipping below freezing to hauling the pie pumpkins into the house from their place on the porch.

Other things, were fun things that were added in. One of those things was a crafting day with friends. This time around we decided to try decorating bottles for the Christmas holiday.

To prepare for this we collected quart mason canning jars, wine bottles, garage sale decorations, ribbon, spray paint, sparkly letters and of course glitter. It is amazing to me how many empty wine bottles people have! I am not sure if that is bad or good….having so many empty wine bottles.

We decided to hold this crafting effort at one of the friend’s lake house.  The plan had been to spend the night but the weather forecast for the following day was “iffy” at best. The four-letter Snow word was tossed about as well as the Ice word. We decided to believe the weatherman and cut it short to one day.

The day dawned grey, cold and windy……really windy. The view from the lake house patio door was white caps on the lake.

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Coots Riding the Waves

Before we ever got to crafting we had to make a pit stop at the Hobby Lobby in a town nearby. We weren’t even sure what we were really looking for but spent lots of time in the Christmas decoration parts of the store.

It was fun seeing what we all chose to put in our cart at Hobby Lobby. It was also fun to see how we used all those purchases.

Arbor Mist bottle

An Arbor Mist bottle started this project. We used Rustoleum gold paint for the base and then dusted it lightly with a metallic glittery spray paint. (not sure what kind as one of the friends brought that). The tree farm picture on the front was from a tablet of Christmas paper by Paper Studio. (purchased at Hobby Lobby and no…..I do not get anything out of letting you know which products were used or where purchased. I just thought it would be nice for you to know).

We used Mod Podge to glue it to the bottle and rubber bands to keep it stuck there till it dried. We then garnished with second hand shop finds of raffia and berries. I think I will be tweaking mine a little more as I prefer some greenery to use with it.

We spray painted quite a few bottles and it will be interesting to see how we each actually finish them.

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It was so much fun to spend the day with friends. It is such a blessing to have friends that know exactly who you are and like to spend time with you anyway. It is something to be truly grateful for. I am also full of gratitude for the fact that we actually were able to figure out how to use the timer on my phone to get a photo of us! That is truly amazing!

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I hope you have someone to call “friend” …..someone who cares how you feel…..someone who laughs with you, cries with you, prays with you, gives you a hug when you need it and who also isn’t afraid to tell you what you need to hear. Those are the best kind of friends and I am blessed.

True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils.
Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island…
to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune;
to keep him is a blessing.
Unknown

 

 

A Day at a Time

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Birthday Box

I woke up yesterday to the fact that I had reached a milestone day…..I hit the big six zero on the birthday scale. I rolled over and asked my husband how in the world that had happened.  His dry response….”One day at a time”.

He hit that exactly right. Every day just brings us that much closer to the next milestone birthday. I don’t really have a problem hitting those milestones…I just have a problem realizing that I have hit them. I have often told my children that my plan is to get old but just not grow up…..they assure me I am doing fine on that goal.

My sister-in-law sent me a box of goodies from Missouri. Her card made me laugh as it featured two older ladies. I love the fact those ladies are laughing there heads off and enjoying life. The box contained chocolate, teas and candles with the letters spelling Older & Wiser. I am sure I am older I am just not sure on the wiser part!

My sister-in-law and I, have long called each other Milly and Tilly. Years ago we each knew women in their 90’s who were such an inspiration to us. The woman she knew was named Milly and the woman I knew was Tilly. We decided that when we “grew up” we wanted to be just like them.

Those women were fearless in their old age. They learned how to use computers, took the stairs instead of elevators and lived life. They just never gave up enjoying day to day life and kept moving as long as they could.

I am not sure if I spent my birthday in “Tilly fashion” or not. I don’t know that I really got a whole lot done. It was spent in a wonderful way. The day started with going to Coffee Break Bible study in a town nearby. This is my first experience with Coffee Break and I can tell I am going to love it.

After Bible study I ran errands in town and then headed on to the next town to meet a friend. Our plan had been to dig out some perennials that she wanted thinned out. We never made it out of the Fruited Plain where we met for lunch…… we were too focused on visiting and catching up. (I would highly recommend the Fruited Plain and their flatbread….mmmmmm).

I should back up and mention that she met me at the door with a birthday cupcake! It was beautiful. I tried to get a photo of it through its cellophane container.

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Birthday Cupcake

It was beautiful until it fell sideways and smashed the flowers!  Fortunately smashed flowers did not affect the wonderful taste!

It was not exactly a day of pampering but it was pretty close to it. Any day spent with friends in Bible study and/or lunch is pampering in my book. I did not feel the least bit guilty that canning did not get done, grass did not get mowed and the house did not get cleaned. I knew all those things would not disappear and would be waiting for me today.

I came to the conclusion that it was the perfect way to spend a birthday. Bible study was a great way to start it off, lunch with a friend, sharing chocolates out of my birthday box with my husband and a bowl of ice cream with peaches to cap it off.

Life can be a little like my cupcake. We start out fresh and looking pretty good. After a time we get a little smushed up from events and don’t look quite like we started out. The good news is……no matter how smashed our frosting is…..we are still a cupcake and we are still good!

If the weekend finds you feeling a little mashed by life…..may you realize you are still okay……..even if your frosting has taken a different form. Blessings to you all this coming weekend!

And so encourage one another and help one another,
just as you are now doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Baby Celebrations

IMG_4031 Opening Gifts

Sometimes things in life do not go quite as planned. We had this experience this past Sunday. We had planned for a beautiful sunny day to hold a Baby Celebration for my son and daughter-in-law and our soon to come grandson. What we got was a day that started out drizzly.

We had planned to set up tables and chairs outside and have everything ready to go by 11:00, so we could get started on the grilling of burgers and hot dogs.  What we got was drizzling till about 10:45, waiting till 11:00 to make sure it really was done dripping all over, and then scrambling to get things set up outdoors so we would be ready for the guests. We had planned to have this be a casual event; and it was a casual event so that went according to plan!

Lots of prayers were sent up, on my part, for there to be a couple hour break in the drippiness.  (I struggled with that prayer as we really need the rain in this area.) We did get a break and it was long enough to fit in everything we needed to.

The day, while not warm and sunny, was a wonderful day of celebration. Lots of laughter, joking, playing games (Corn Hole and Badminton) and opening gifts. It was a wonderful day to celebrate life, family, friends, and the celebration of a new life on the way.

 

There was plenty of food for everyone….(though the frozen fruit cup was a little bit chilly for the day). Grilled burgers and hot dogs, salads and a S’more table, more than made up for the slightly damp atmosphere.

 

We decided that we would still have our homemade root beer and floats. (It was National Root Beer Float Day on Sunday so we needed those floats!) They were great with the S’mores and no one seemed to mind having a chilly dessert.

 

I had bought the duck a few years back at a garage sale. At the time I purchased it I thought it was a floaty for a pool. I found out later it was a blow up baby bathtub! I am really glad I found a great use for it at the party. It made a great root beer and water bottle holder. (I must thank the mom-to-be for taking pictures of the set up…..I had totally forgotten!)

There was lots of mingling and catching up with family and friends during the afternoon. It was a time to retell old family stories and make new ones. I may be the mom of sons…but I am blessed by the women they have brought into our family! They were the drive behind the planning, food and decorations.

We did have a really good laugh when my daughter-in-law shared that my grandson had been quizzing them on their way here about what happens at a baby shower. He was firmly convinced that this was the day the baby would arrive and we were all going to be together to witness the birth and have a huge celebration! He wanted to know all the whens, whys, and whats on how that was going to happen. I am not sure what they actually told him…but it still makes me grin.

In the end….the day was perfect in it’s weather imperfection. It was a celebration that did not hinge on circumstances like foggy damp rain. It did not hinge on “if everything went according to plan”. In the end…the day did go as planned….people had fun, we celebrated and we enjoyed being together.

It was a day that celebrated family, life, new beginnings and love.  It was a day that celebrated blessings and what they really are. When it all comes down to it I guess that is what really matters…..and it was good.

 

The best times are always found
when friends and family gather round.
Unknown

If you so choose,
even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities.
If you so choose,
you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.
Ralph Marston

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Preparing For Gathering

Cupcakes

Triple Chocolate Fudge & White Almond Raspberry Filled Cupcakes

Today was one of those days that seemed to be busy with a hodgepodge of “stuff”.  I spent time preparing for a bride/groom wedding shower that, as an aunt, I am helping host. This means, we are in charge of lunch, games and whatever else needs doing.

These showers started out being for couples on my husbands side of the family; due to being a small group. I am not sure how the guys feel about being included, but I think it adds a lot of fun to see the guys’ perspective on things.

One of the things I had to make was cupcakes. As of today, I can check them off my list of to-dos. They are some “canoey” work….but they are fun to decorate. We have some who cannot have gluten so I also made some of those. (It is really helpful to have a little  help from Betty Crocker for that!) I bought a yellow gluten free cake mix and turned them into lemon cupcakes with a recipe I found on Pinterest. (Lemon Cupcakes)

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I also got to prepare for my kids to come home, for a time, this weekend. The oldest son and his family will be spending a night here! I cannot wait to see them. It was time to sweep, dust, vacuum, and change bedding upstairs in anticipation of the weekend.

On Sunday the kids will all be here for Sunday dinner. We will celebrate Mother’s Day and we are also going to have a “grand reveal”  to find out what our newest grandchild will be. We will find out if we should purchase pink or blue items for this newest addition to the bunch.

I am not sure what my youngest son and his wife have planned for this big reveal….all I know is my son said they needed “lots of room”. Knowing how they love target  and clay pigeon shooting, I would not be surprised if it somehow involved shooting! I guess I will have to be patient and wait to find out.

Some of my preparations involved washing towels (you have to have clean towels when the kids come home) and hanging them outside to dry. After I got them hung on the clotheslines I wandered over to the garden.  Easter weekend my husband and I were able to get our potatoes planted. When I checked them today I was pretty excited to see they were starting to come up. Some places I could even see rows!

Potato Plant

Yukon Gold Potatoes

 

Now the busy work starts…..weeding, hoeing, watering and mulching those potatoes. I mowed the lawn today, but didn’t have time to bag the grass to be used for mulching…..maybe next time! Maybe next week will be a little slower pace….maybe. About the time I think that life will slow down; something else pops up and keeps us running.

It is a fun kind of busy….these last few days. It is a busy that is filled with anticipation of seeing family and getting together. It is the knowing that our time together will be too short; but it will be so full of laughter, stories and love. It will be a time of new memories being made and the re-telling old ones.

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day this weekend. May you be surrounded by your family. If they cannot come home make sure to give them a call and let them know you care! May you have time to make great new memories.

If you don’t have children….be the “cool” uncle, aunt or neighbor that all the kids want to hang out with. You have no idea what you mean to those kids! Everyone has a need to belong and know that someone cares about them.

May you be blessed this weekend and may you be a blessing to those around you.

 

“Our family is a circle of strength;
founded on faith,
joined in love,
kept by God,
together
forever.”
-Unknown

Cherish your human connections:
your relationships with friends and family.
Joseph Brodsky

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Not All That Glitters…..

kaboom-game

It may be true that “Not all that glitters is gold.” I think the reverse is also true….Not all gold is something that glitters. I have no idea if that makes any sense whatsoever…..it just sounded kind of profound.

I have many things in life that are really pure gold….family and friends being at the top of the list. My daughter-in-law posted the picture of the two grandkids on Facebook the other day. It just made my day to see those two little ones.

They are the real gold in my life. Those two bring such a joy to life. Everything they do is done with everything they have. They really know how to live life to the full and they sparkle from the inside out.

I did have to do some questioning about the Kaboom game after seeing the photo. I first thought they were knocking down the blocks with marshmallows. Turns out those are white painted blocks…..which is a good thing; as I am not sure about the shelf life of a game that would use marshmallows as game pieces.

I digress (which I often do). I also have some amazing friends. One of them truly does glitter! We have often called her the glitter queen. Wherever she goes she has a sparkle about her….literally. I should explain. She is a craft wizard and loves….(did I say loves?) to use glitter. There are times her husband even sparkles. (I am not so sure how impressed he is with the thought of sparkling.)

There is a down side to glitter. Once it gets loose in your home it attaches itself to everything. My daughter-in-law once gave me a Christmas present wrapped in beautiful paper that had glittery snowflakes on it. It did not take long and everything and everyone had a slight sparkle to and on them….maybe more than a slight sparkle. It was actually quite wonderful in a Christmas sparkly kind of way.

My daughter-in-law started to snicker and informed me that the clerk who had sold her the paper explained to her about glitter.  According to him, and I quote, “Glitter is the herpes of the craft world…….once you have it…..you can never get rid of it.” That is a quote that has firmly planted itself in my brain. It comes to mind every time I see a tube of glitter, a card with glitter or anything sparkly and glitter related. That quote is somewhat like glitter….I don’t think I will ever be able to erase it!

I am so glad that there is so much more to my family and friends than just temporary , external sparkle. They are “Real” and their beauty and worth comes from who they are inside and not what they look like outside. They are beautiful, wonderful people….inside and out.

I pray that you have a friend or family member who sparkles and shines from the inside. I pray this friend or family member spreads a little “internal glitter” over your life and brings you joy. I also pray that you, in turn, spread a little glitter over those around you.

 

“Consider the fact that maybe…just maybe…
beauty and worth aren’t found in a makeup bottle,
or a salon-fresh hairstyle, or a fabulous outfit.
Maybe our sparkle comes from somewhere deeper inside,
somewhere so pure and authentic and REAL,
it doesn’t need gloss or polish or glitter to shine.”

Mandy Hale, T
he Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

 

 

 

 

Small Town Holidays

Waiting for the Parade.  Avenue of flags

Today we celebrated the Labor Day holiday in a small town about 24 miles away. It was a pretty typical small town celebration in our area.

There were plenty of food booths; with many of them being fund raisers for various church groups, Kiwanis groups, and The Lion’s Club. Local restaurants shifted their base of operation to the park in the center of town for the day to be where the action was. I really wanted to get a bag of kettle corn (which is delicious!) but the line was so incredibly long that you could have probably grown some popcorn by the time you would get to buy some.

Another section of the park plays host to local vendors who are selling everything from Tupperware to crafts made from repurposed items to booths selling spices and home-baked goods.

Off to the side is the children’s section……lots of carnival games (think the fish pond) and the ever popular inflatable things they can jump around in.

Most small town celebrations in our area include a parade. This one was no exception. The color guard started it out with veterans from the local legion group leading the way. In small towns around here everyone stands, hats off and pays their respects to these veterans and the flag.

The vets are followed by the parade marshal who seems to always be the oldest living person in the town. Sometimes they are long time business people who have just retired but old seems to be the main criteria. As I do not live in a town and have not yet reached that age I think that I will never be a parade marshal, which is okay because it would be kind of awkward with everyone looking at you. A person would have to practice the parade wave…..elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist type of wave……stressful.

A big part of our small town parades involve firetrucks, ambulances and the EMTs and firemen and their families tossing candy at any small child along the route. Once in awhile they take pity on those of us who come without children and we get tossed a tootsie roll. Life is good!

Also featured are various businesses and lots of farm tractors of all ages, makes and sizes.

 

Always a crowd pleaser at the parades are the shriners. Sometimes we get to see motorcycles and sometimes it is the go carts/dune buggy things. My husband thought it looked like a lot of fun! I laughed when I overheard one parade watcher ponder on how many tires they must go through in a parade season.

One of my favorite entries in these parades has to be the bands. This time there was the elementary band and high school band of the local school system. They also had a business that featured a percussion type of band on a trailer. Their instruments consisted of wooden bar stools and trash cans.

After the parade we ventured over to the high school where they were hosting a car/truck show. Every year they seem to get more entries. It is kind of fun to wander through the rows of gleaming cars that are shiny enough to use as a mirror. It is also a journey through memory lane as a lot of those “classic” cars were cars that kids in my day routinely drove to high school. I am never sure if that make me a classic?   Or just old?? I think I prefer classic.

A bonus to the day is running into people you have not seen in a long time. It is a great time to catch up on what they are doing and what is going on in their families. This might be one of the biggest draws to this type of holiday celebration in a small town…….relationships. Sometimes these are people you only see a couple of times a year; but you just pick up the friendship like you had just seen them the day before.

I have a feeling that my husband and I will always be small town type of people. The place where a holiday consists of flags flying in the breeze, firetrucks parading through the street with sirens blaring and candy being tossed to the delight of children (and some of the older crowd who will remain nameless….). The place where a friend of a friend becomes your friend just because you know the same people and share in the same small town experience.

The nice part about living in a small town
is that when you don’t know what you’re doing,
someone else does
.
Immanuel Kant quotes