We Want the Blessings, but…

Have you ever tried to prepare a meal for a picky child?  They want pizza and ice cream. They’d rather skip the veggies because it doesn’t taste as good as the pizza and ice cream. Do we as adults allow our children to consistently consume only what our children desire?  No.  Why is that?  Because we know that type of diet is not healthy and will not allow them to grow and develop the way they should.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. ~ I Corinthians 13:11

Too often, we want our cake and we want to eat it too.  We adopt a belief system that offers the inconsistency that we can live our lives, as Christians, without adhering to the doctrines of the Word of God.  Today’s ideology seems to be that we can pick and choose our beliefs, much like a salad bar.  We don’t like this commandment or that commandment, but we love the forgiveness part.  We love the “love” part and the peace part, but what about the putting God first in your life part?  Or the loving your neighbor as yourself?  Or the maintaining a pure lifestyle before marriage part?  Or the keeping a pure heart part?

There is so much more to being a Christian than saying a prayer and believing that Jesus died for your sins!  That is simply a starting point and a vital starting point at that.  But, as in any aspect of our lives, we should continue moving forward in our faith.  With faith comes a commitment.  That commitment to Christ requires obedience and trust.

How will others know that you belong to Christ?  By your fruit!  What does your fruit look like today?  Does it point others to the foot of the Cross so that they, too, may receive such grace and forgiveness?  Or is it stagnant fruit that isn’t any different from how you used to live?

We are called to be the “salt and light” in this world.

Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

So, our testimony as believers of Jesus Christ is worthless and good for nothing if our lives do not point others to the Cross.  We want our trees to have good fruit that display not only the love of God, but the holiness that such love demands.  God loves us too much to leave us in our sin.

I encourage you to really study the Word of God and ask God what is He requiring of you today?  Tune in with sensitive spiritual ears to really hear what He is speaking to you.  Our prayer should be this:

“God, I surrender all.  I give you everything, every part of my life.  If there is anything that is not pleasing to you, please show me.”

If we are daily picking up our crosses and following Jesus, reading His Word, praying and listening to His voice, we will be well on our way to producing good fruit that points others to the extravagant grace that we have found.

May that be said of us.

Psalm 1:1-3

“Blessed is the man that walkers not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitters in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, the bringers forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper.”

 

 

 

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Taking Cues from our Bodies

Isn’t it funny how our bodies send us signals all the time?  They tell us when we’re tired, hungry, angry or when we’re stressed to the max and when it is time to take a break!

If this stye on the inside of my left eyelid could speak, it would say, “Who do you think you are?  Wonder Woman?  Slow down, missy!”

And so, here I sit typing on my bed, where I plan to be for the majority of the next two days…taking a break!  I knew I was stressed, but why is it only when an illness knocks that you are actually somehow granted permission to rest?  At the moment, I wear several hats … wife, mom, daughter, caretaker, sibling and friend.  And somewhere in there is the hat with my name on it…only it gets buried underneath all the other hats at times.  So for the next two days, I plan on dusting off the “Amber” hat and being very nice to her.  She deserves it.

If we neglect ourselves and do not listen to our internal cues, illness can result.  I thought I was doing my best to juggle my hats but clearly I need to do better.  I am caregiver to my 80 year old father who lives with us and he has had two hospitalizations recently with many follow up appointments, home health nurses, aides and physical therapists coming and going pretty much daily.  On top of trying to see that he is cared for, I am still recovering from multiple surgeries and dealing with some issues.

(Just a little example of what my life looks like):

This morning I got ready and headed out for my G.I. Dr. appointment, although I seriously considered cancelling it due to this painful stye.  (and the fact that I wasn’t sure I would be able to drive!). But, I marched on like a good soldier.  I called my eye doctor in hopes they could squeeze me in their schedule today.  Thankfully, they got me in at 10:15a.m. and I was able to get the much needed prescriptions for antibiotic eye drops and an oral antibiotic.  Then, I hurried to my car in order to make it down the street in time for my 11:00a.m. G.I. Dr. appointment!  Whew!  I made it in time to turn in all my updated forms and recent imaging reports.  I had a thorough appointment.  CVS did not have my antibiotic eye drops in stock so I decided to go to another store in hopes they would have them.  I really needed them today!  Thankfully, after waiting over an hour, probably closer to two hours…I left that CVS with my prescriptions in hand!  Then, I went to the lab for the blood work that the G.I. Dr. ordered, although I was in pain and worn out.  I wanted to get the blood work done prior to starting the antibiotics so it didn’t throw off the results.   I came home and checked on Dad to see how he was feeling and showed him my swollen eye.  To which he responded, “So does this mean we’re not going to have my ultrasound done today?”  Holy Moly!!  In the midst of my health crisis of the day, I completely forgot his appointment at 4:00p.m.!  I quickly called the imaging center and they graciously rescheduled his appointment for next week.  Whew!

I have never been in a season like the one I’m presently in.  Those who know me, know that I am fairly laid back and I have a very good memory.  I’m a planner by nature and I’m usually pretty good at keeping all the balls in the air…

But, then surgical menopause happened….

and I have not been the same since my last surgery!  I am, however, determined to outlast this phase!  I am stronger than the chaos!  Tougher than the pain!  I am an overcomer and rest in knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for everything I am facing!

In my weakness, He is strong!

And, so, today my priority is to be extra kind to myself.  I know that with God’s help, I will get through this.  Life will not always be filled with constant pain.  My father will not always be here and need my care.  But he is here today and today I will make sure he is fed, clothed and cared for.  It is my duty as his daughter.  In doing so, I am honoring God through my obedience to His Word to honor your parents that it may go well with you and that you may live long upon the land which the Lord God gives you!  I rest in that promise.

………..

So, another hat I wear is wife….

My husband called to see what is for dinner a while ago…. Meanwhile, I had just set up my trusty, gray reading pillow and laptop on the bed to entertain myself during my misery.  He wanted to just pick up subs, but I assured him that we would make a beef stir fry and rice.  So, I called my eighteen year old son on his cell phone and asked that he meet me in the kitchen for cooking instructions.  (He was downstairs and we have crazy, spiral stairs that my back revolts against!).  So, he got instant cooking lessons on making beef and vegetable stir fry and divided it into two pans so we will have leftovers.  He cut up an onion while I quickly loaded the dishwasher and washed a few dishes by hand.  I told him that the dinner dishes were all his, though.  So, you see… although I have determined to stay put in bed until the worst of this infection and pain clears, I am constantly beckoned for one reason or another.  I don’t mind but this is a time for rest and self care.

And, so, if you don’t mind, I am hanging a “Do not disturb” sign on my door for a bit.  For you see, I’m slowly but surely learning to take cues from my body.

Slow down, missy!  Life is not a sprint.  It is a marathon.  And if you expect to make it to the finish line, you better pace yourself.  And set boundaries that cannot be negotiated.

Rest.  Balance.  Grace.  Boundaries.

Words to live by.

 

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Budget Tinkering…

Some people like to tinker with cars…I like to tinker with our monthly budget.

I am a recovering perfectionist and I am also quite competitive.  Haha!  So, this combination lends itself to routine tinkering with our budget.  Now that I’m further along on my road to recovery from multiple surgeries, I am in a better position to lend my attention to our financial goals.

My husband and I discuss our financial goals and aspirations pretty much on a daily basis.  While we openly communicate about upcoming purchases, savings goals, bills, etc., I am the one who generally implements these things.

While listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast recently, I learned about every dollar.com, his new budget website that is absolutely free!  I checked it out and it has some really neat features.  Once you plug in your specifics, it will tally it all up and show the percentage of your budget for each area.  You can upgrade to another tier on the website, but the free features are great as they stand.  There is also information there about the “Baby steps” toward financial freedom.  All very good information.

So, I am inspired, once again, to pay closer attention to not only our spending, but our savings goals.  The two really go hand in hand.

Dave Ramsey said something the other day that really caused me to pause and think about it:

“Your greatest financial asset is your income.”

He went on to say if we give it all away, you are left with nothing to show for it.  That is obvious but begs the question – “Who do you want to give it to?”  “What goals do you have in mind?”  “What would be a better use of your money?”

Money is a vehicle.  But unless you are the driver, it will take you down roads, you do not want to go. …

So, where do you want to go?

Where do you want to be next year?  In five years?  Ten?

We all are living in a finite span of time with a finite earning potential.  With this in mind, where do you want your time to be invested?  Because all money is … is your time. It is a tangible representation of your time.  Your life.

What do you want to show for it?

Do you want to leave an inheritance for your children?  Do you want to travel internationally?  Do you want to donate to charitable causes?

You only have so much time.

What do you want to be remembered for?  Your generosity?  Your wise stewardship?  …

Tinkering.

What does it mean anyway?  Well, it means to adjust, repair, fix, play around with.  Budgets are constantly in need of such.

If you wrote out a list of your goals and dreams, would your monthly budget be a reflection of them?  Or is your budget more of a lack of attention and just floating along?

Would you gladly give up cable t.v. if it meant you could contribute more to your retirement fund?  What about giving up sodas and lattes, if it meant you could cash flow Christmas this year?

Life is about trade-offs.  Would you rather have “this” or “that”?  Which one is more important to you?  It is about intentional living.  Choices.  Determine today that you are going to begin implementing your goals that are close to your heart rather than spending money like it’s going out of style.

So, I’ve been tinkering with our budget and, so far, I’m liking the outcome.  I’m glad I’ve reached this epiphany now rather than later because time seems to slip through our fingers like sand, my friends.  Now really is the time to tell your money where to go rather than wondering where it went! (Dave Ramsey quote).

What if you began making extra payments toward your debt?  What if you sold a few things toward that end?  What if, once your debt was paid, you began chunking away money in a Christmas, travel fund or other savings goals?

Periodically, we must take stock in the direction our income is going.  Recently, we switched our car and homeowner’s insurance to the annual savings tune of $1,600!!  That’s like newly found money right there!  Yes!

That is just one example of tinkering that has been very productive!

What budget category can you tinker with today?

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Buying Items “Off Season”

I absolutely love a bargain!  Don’t you?  The thrill of knowing that you paid only a fraction for an item is euphoric! … and addicting, I might add.

Recently while perusing at Goodwill, I found several boxes of Hallmark Christmas cards for $1.99-$2.99.  Very few are thinking about Christmas in July, but I have learned the best deals are found when stores are trying to get rid of stock.

We live in Florida, but if one was shopping for a winter coat, it’s best to look for one in the spring or early summer when no one wants to think about cold weather any longer!

It’s back-to-school season around here and I am waiting for everyone to do their shopping and for the stores to begin marking things down to near clearance prices.  That’s when I will stock up on spiral notebooks for the year.  My youngest is a senior this year and he needs very few supplies, fortunately.  In the past, I have purchased spiral notebooks for as little as $.10 each.  We’ll see how low I will find them this year.

A couple years ago we needed an outdoor table and chair set for our balcony but the prices were more than we wanted to pay.  So, we waited.  Then it came time for Home Depot to mark down their summer items and we got a $1,000 set for $500!  That was worth the wait!

We’ve done this over and over again in our twenty-two years of marriage.  We make every effort to be wise in our spending and will gladly buy second hand when feasible.  Spiral notebooks are one of those items that are difficult to buy second hand and even if you found them in mint condition, our local thrift store would likely charge more than the price I can get them on sale.  So, you just have to be savvy.  I try to keep a running list of items I know we’ll be needing in the short term, so when I’m out and about, I can look for those things.

I recently bought some long sleeve shirts, which is somewhat strange on a day that was about 97 degrees!  But, I know I will need them in a couple months when we take a trip.

Quite paradoxically, a few weeks ago I ordered a new bathing suit and a scarf.  Ha!  I needed to purchase an additional item to avoid the shipping cost, so I found the scarf at a deep discount.  Again, I wouldn’t wear the scarf at home, but when traveling, it will come in handy!

Saving money is all about planning.  When we wait until the last minute, most of the time we will wind up paying more than we should.

This is where a budget comes into play.  I love this Dave Ramsey quote:

“A budget is telling your money where to go,

instead of wondering where it went!”

Love it!

So, I challenge you to begin thinking about your shopping needs for the next few months and keep a running list.  Then, brainstorm… “Where can I find this item at a reduced price?”  “When is the best time to purchase said item?”

Timing is everything.  And shopping “Off season” is a great way to save a lot of money.

 

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What Are You Doing?

Really.  What are you doing with your time?

Recently I discovered Podcasts.  Yes, I’m late to the game but that’s okay.  I’ve been busy with life.  I digress…

So, as I was listening to this NPR talk about “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, who has written a book on the topic, I began to think about all the distractions I face on a daily basis.  In fact,  ….

Excuse me, my cell phone just dinged, signaling a text message…

It really did.  Perfectly on cue, I might add.

So, as I was beginning to say … In fact, my entire existence of late seems to be one series of “interruptions” or distractions.  Let me explain.  First of all, I am a stay at home mother whose youngest will be a senior in high school this year.  So, life lately is all about applying for a job, getting his learner’s permit, starting a checking account, plans for life after graduation, etc.  Grown up stuff.  So, as I am busy herding my youngest toward adulthood, I also find myself as a caregiver to my 80.5 year old father, who came to live with us last fall.  It has literally been ten months of pretty much back to back emergencies with him with few breaks.

And somewhere in all of this, I, myself have had three major abdominal surgeries in a twelve month period and the shocking discovery of a rare, aggressive cancer.  Thankfully, as of today’s writing, I am cancer free.  It appears that it had not spread and that the surgeon was able to remove it all.

Did I mention life has been a little more than crazy of late?  All of this is to illustrate the situations and scenarios that life can throw at one.

But, what is my focus?

What do I really want to be spending my time doing?  What do I want to accomplish in the days I am allotted?

Those are the meaningful questions we must ask ourselves if our lives are to have merit and lasting legacy.  And once we’ve discovered the answers, it becomes imperative to cultivate intense focus toward achieving our goals and dreams.

So, this podcast discussed all the interruptions such as email, texts and social media that keep us from achieving a higher level of work.  This really got me to thinking.

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007 when my nephew and niece talked me into joining so I could keep up with them long distance.  I’m hooked.  So I’m not likely to give it up any time soon.  I can, however, refrain from checking it every time I have down time.

The podcast also challenged me to remove certain distractions or unnecessary things from my life in order to focus on the things I really want to accomplish.  Somehow we get this impression that our days will surely be endless but the contrary is actually true.  Our days are measured and they are likely fewer than we sometimes think.  That may sound morbid but it’s not intended that way.

And so, I find myself accepting this challenge of more intentional living.  I have longed believed saying no is not a bad thing.

Now, I am choosing to opt not to do some good things in lieu of greater things.

You see, there are many good things in this life.  Many worthwhile uses of our time.  But are they beneficial to us and our end goal?

I think these are “tune-up” questions we should periodically ask ourselves.  We give our cars a tune-up.  Sometimes we must evaluate and fine tune our personal and professional lives as well.  Are my habits creating a desired outcome?  Or are they becoming baggage or a negative thing in my life?

Am I taking care of myself adequately?  Or am I placing others’ needs ahead of my own?  When is the last time I learned something new?  What do I get excited about?  What really angers me?

What am I placing before my eyes and ears?  Is it helping me to become the person I desire?  Or am I just filling time?

We don’t get to choose the day we are born or the day we die, but everything else … Well, that’s up to you!

Cheers to a less distracted life!

 

 

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Humanity in a Techy World

The world sure has changed just over the last twenty years – the way we interact with a quick text or a short email, etc.  Blogging has exploded … which is why you’re reading this.

In general, the way we interact with one another on a daily basis has drastically changed.  The method in which we give and receive news has been forever altered. There are positives and negatives to this transformation.

But the point to this post is that with so much technology at our fingertips 24 hours a day, we run the risk of losing our humanity.  We run the risk of de-humanizing our existence and the existence of those around us or even those half way across the world.

Drivers often behave in an aggressive or unthoughtful manner when they wouldn’t be as quick to engage in such risky behavior if there was not a shield of metal in between them and their fellow travelers.  They have a buffer of glass and metal.  In the same way, we have a buffer of technology in between the writer and the audience.

I think this is the reason (to a degree) the vitriol and level of hatred has escalated in our media and is evidenced in our usage of social media.

We have forgotten our audience.  We have forgotten the hard working man on the receiving end of our callous words.  We have forgotten the mom who is doing the best she can.  The dads, brothers, moms, sisters, etc.  The people.  They are just people.  Like you.  Like me.

Sometimes I think it’s important to take a step back and unplug for a moment.  Go look someone in the eye while discussing current events over lunch.   Plan a family dinner where no one is constantly checking their phones, but instead shares inside, family jokes.  Reconnecting with humanity will help to preserve our human condition and serves to also preserve some decorum.

Before you fire off that text, email, post, tweet or blog … Remember your audience.

They may not be who you think they are.

They may be just like you.

They may be you.

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Finding Rest

We spend our lives hanging our hopes and dreams of true happiness on the hat of achievement or success while its fulfillment is fleeting.  We tend to tell ourselves that ‘we’ll be really happy when’…

…we reach a certain pay grade

…we find the perfect match

…we have x number of children

…we buy a larger home

…we retire

…we travel the world

….While these are lofty and worthwhile goals and dreams, we will never be satisfied or at rest in these alone.

…or what about  – we’ll be really happy when…this storm passes or I am healthy again?

THEN, I will be happy and my soul will be at rest!

What if true rest is found in surrender?

What if the peace we seek is found in the person of Jesus Christ?  I submit to you that it is only then that the searching, the seeking, the striving … is fulfilled and complete.

All too often our focus goes askew.  We lose sight of the fact that He is the Potter and we are the clay.  Does the clay tell the Potter what to make?  No.  Never.  Sometimes our lives segue into unchartered waters and we fear we may drown.  It’s during those times, especially, that our focus must be redirected on the One who has all power in His hands.  That doesn’t always mean the storm will be averted or our path will miraculously veer around the storm.  It does, however, mean that God is there no matter the circumstances.  He is our Peace in troubled times.  No matter the situation, we can find rest.

Each of our journeys are unique.  We each run a different race, face particular battles, etc. But we are all created by the same God who made us to only find true peace and satisfaction in a personal relationship with Him.

We live in anxious times, no matter your geographic location.  We just do.  For all the academic achievements of mankind, sometimes we can be too prideful to realize our full dependence on an Almighty God.  For all our intellectual ability and strivings, we remain completely lacking in every way.  It is when we realize this, that we have begun to live.  Really live.  Life is so complex.  Happiness can seem elusive if we continue looking in all the wrong directions.  It is, however, completely attainable when we wholeheartedly surrender to God and know that no matter what we may be going through, He is there with us.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  In that, our future is secure and peace is attainable.

Rest today, friend, knowing that your circumstances do not somehow escape the watchful eye of an All-Knowing God.  He sees.  He knows.  He cares.  Rest.

“Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

~ Matthew 11:28

 

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Steeping Tea Bags

Standing over a pan of boiling water with tea bags steeping caused me to reflect on the process for a moment this morning. You see, I love iced tea.  And, tea making is important, friends.  Of late, my iced tea has been on the weak side, which led to my wandering thoughts.  Sometimes I lack the patience to wait for the water to come to a full boil before removing the pan from the burner so I can move onto the next task.  It is, however, this bit of patience that is required in order to allow the flavor to be released by the extremely hot temperature.

It was inspirational really…

The Lord dropped this thought into my mind – Without boiling water, the tea is flavorless and has no character.  It is severely lacking.  In other words, our lives are like the tea bags and the boiling water represents the storms of life.  Without the storms, our lives lack character and growth.  They never quite reach their full potential and are stymied as to reaching their rich flavor.

None of us like the boiling water or the storms of life, but it is during this process that maturing takes place.

Tea anyone?

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I Am Cancer Free!!!!!

The Cancer Center Doctor called the night before last to deliver the pathology report from my recent oophorectomy, just eight weeks since my hysterectomy.  Her phone call was a bit surreal.  She said everything came back negative for cancer!!!!!

I was laying down when she called as I’m recovering from my surgery last week but I was jumping up and down on the inside!!!  My heart could hardly believe this most excellent news!  It was much like having a 2 ton boulder removed from one’s shoulders!  I hung up and delivered the wonderful news to my husband who was laying beside me.  We hugged and cried.  Oh, how I cried tears of relief, tears of pure joy from the depths of my soul!  My life was handed back to me and I am forever grateful to God for this second chance!

Allow me to back up and give a brief background to this euphoric news!…

In January 2016 I went to the ER with abdominal pain.  Thinking it may be my appendix, I decided to get it checked out late one night.  They did a CT scan, which showed a number of issues – two of the most pressing were my gallbladder and a large, uterine fibroid.  After undergoing a Hida scan, it was confirmed my gallbladder was only functioning at 35% and would need to be removed.  That surgery was in February 2016.

After consulting with a GYN surgeon, I decided to move forward with a hysterectomy as it would resolve many other symptoms I had but was unaware of the source until now.  Surgery was scheduled for the end of June, however, I had to reschedule it due to spending nearly five months out of state tending to my sick father…  Once again, surgery was scheduled…this time for November 29, 2016.

The three hour hysterectomy went well. I had some awful reactions to pain meds, one of which required a trip via ambulance to the ER.  It was while I was laying on the ER bed one week post-op that my GYN surgeon stopped by the hospital to deliver the mind numbing news that my pathology had come back that I had a rare, aggressive cancer.  She said it all seemed to be contained within the fibroid but she was referring me to an oncologist GYN at a cancer hospital.  My husband sat beside my bed, asking many questions and cried.  Mercifully, I was on paid meds and a little insulated from the initial shock.  This was December 6, 2016.

We met with the oncologist GYN on December 20, 2016 and set yet another surgery date for February 1, 2017 to remove my ovaries (which posed an added risk of generating more cancer as it is hormone driven) and select lymph nodes for testing.  They would also do some exploratory work to make sure no other areas had been affected by this rare, aggressive cancer called leiomyosarcoma.  It represents only 1% of all uterine cancers and there is no lab test for it, which is why it is normally only discovered after the patient dies (much like ovarian cancer).  It is by the grace of God mine was found “incidentally”, but I know better.  God ordained this and He allowed my life to be extended by His great mercy.

This would be my third major surgery in less than a year!  I was very concerned that the utter fatigue from the hysterectomy would be further compounded by another surgery, so soon.  I was just beginning to get my energy back as my next surgery was quickly approaching…

The February 1st surgery was a consequential surgery, for it would tell us the “staging” of the cancer and how best to proceed from here.

The surgery went very well and, again, lasted three hours.  I stayed overnight at the cancer hospital and was released the next day.

Fortunately for me, physically, this recovery, while painful, was not nearly as severe as the hysterectomy.  This time around in order to avoid the awful pain medicine side effects, I limped along with Toradol, and now just Advil and Tylenol.  I’ll take the pain, however, if it keeps me out of the ER.  I digress…

The oncologist GYN surgeon said to give them two weeks for pathology to come back, which is standard procedure.  So, to receive a phone call at 7:30p.m. from the Dr. the other evening, just one week post-op, was unexpected to say the least and overwhelmingly euphoric!  NO CANCER!  At this point, I’ll have a follow up appointment from the surgery in five weeks and they want to “follow me” every three months for observation.  So, I’ll go in every three months for a check up and to discuss any changes in symptoms.

If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I have kids at home still – 19 and 17, along with an aging father.  I also have a grown son, 28, who lives nearby.  This has squarely been the hardest battle we’ve ever faced.  It was painful to consider they may be faced with losing their mother to cancer at such a young age, just as I was at age 23.  Of course, it was scary to consider having to endure chemotherapy and radiation and the prospect that they may not be enough to stave off this dreadful disease.

Throughout this entire two month journey, I delved into the Word of God, finding comfort daily for my restless soul.  I wrestled with the idea of having to walk such a painful road but trusted that the same God who has brought me through countless difficulties and heartaches, would be the same God who would mercifully see me through even this painful path.  It’s interesting…the day prior to the Dr. calling to deliver the amazing news, my prayer to God had overwhelmingly been focused on the word “Surrender”!  I told God that I completely surrendered to His will, His plan and what He was doing in my life.  If that involved chemo, then I surrendered.  If that involved Him bringing me home to Glory, then I surrendered.  If that involved dreary days of feeling half dead due to the treatments, then I surrendered.  I reached the place that no matter what, I decided that God could either be trusted or He could not.  I decided emphatically HE CAN BE TRUSTED!

I made up my mind!  So, if I say that I trust Him, then my faith needs to follow that declaration.  I surrendered all.

And then we received the phone call.  Maybe that’s what God was after all along.  Surrender.  He already had my heart long ago.  But did He have all of my faith – 100%?  I don’t know.  One thing I have wrestled with for many years is that it seems easy to believe God for other people.  I have such compassion for others and their struggles and heartaches.  But, do I firmly believe that God will do it for me?

That is where I have struggled.  I struggle no more!  God has done it!  And I am eternally grateful.  I do believe that all things are possible to those who believe!  I believe in a God who can do anything but fail!  I believe that my BEST days are still ahead.

And I believe I will go dance in the streets to declare the faithfulness and mercy of the loving God I serve! …

Just as soon as I can get out of bed!

 

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Be Strong and Courageous

II Chronicles 32 is a wonderful example of the sovereignty of God and proof that when we place our full trust in God, He will cause us to be victorious!

I’ve been spending some time reading and re-reading this chapter to slowly digest its true meaning.  I love verses 7 and 8 in particular:

“Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him;

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.  And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah.”

Wow.  God was saying through Hezekiah – “Hey, I’ve got your back!  The odds may not be favorable for you but, no worries.  I’m bigger; I’m greater than your foes.”

Sometimes we place God is this super small box and believe that He is somewhere up in the sky looking down on us, probably frowning, and that He is incapable of moving in our situation.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Bible says that God is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.  He cares, folks.  He has loved us with an everlasting love.  Above all, He wants us to seek Him out and to trust Him.  How can you have a relationship with someone if you are unwilling to trust them on the most basic level?

When we are able to fully trust God and place our lives in His hands, we will then begin to see Him move in our lives in ways we never thought possible.

“…but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”  Yes!

We build up our faith by reading the Word of God.  And when we do this, our faith is able to grow and we are then in a position to be “strong and courageous”, not in our own strength or might; but in God’s strength.  He will give us supernatural strength to walk through whatever valley you find yourself in today.  He is able.  He is more than enough.

Will you trust Him?

In our weakness, He is strong.   If you feel weak in your faith today, I encourage you to get into the Word of God.  It is there you will find strength.

May God bless you and may you find courage and strength in God today!

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The Smell of Rain

The sliding glass door, leading to the small balcony off the master bedroom, is open.  Rain has been steadily falling since early this morning and the scent is refreshing.  There is nothing like the smell of freshly fallen rain, except maybe crunching leaves in autumn up north.  But, today, it is Florida’s version of winter weather – although fairly mild, of course.

The showers not only replenish the earth but invigorate the senses.  This is not our typical rainy season that occurs during our hurricane season from June 1st through November 30th.  It has caused some dead limbs to be strewn across the lawn and our swimming pool to be pretty full.  The creek that runs behind our house has become rather full with water gushing as it makes its way over the large rocks, creating a small waterfall.  It’s always so peaceful to look at at the waterfall and listen to the water as it cascades over the rocks.

Water is so soothing, isn’t it?  I think of the ocean with its waves that ebb and flow.  Visitors flock to it and find relaxation.  I also think of a warm bath to calm the mind and body.  Waterfalls in the mountains.  People will hike miles just to catch a glimpse of the beauty of majestic waterfalls.  Perhaps the most famous of falls, Niagara Falls, is the destination of thousands of visitors each year.

God certainly knew water would bring mankind peace and nourishment against life’s stresses.

Although it’s very overcast and rainy today, I am thankful for the precipitation.  Everything has a season and today’s season is rain.

Some complain when the weather prevents them from participating in outdoor activities or dulls their mood.  Instead, why not take advantage of a rainy day to do something indoors that you’ve been putting off?  I like to turn on the lights and play some cheerful music on days like these.  It sends a signal to the mind that we still have cause to be happy, despite the weather.

So, today I will enjoy the fresh scent of the rain.  Tomorrow it will be gone.  The sun will be out along with a few clouds, but the rain will be over.

Ah, to breath in this invigorating fragrance is a beautiful blessing!  You see, there is beauty in the rain.  Yes, unpleasantness too.  Like when you step into a deep puddle.  Isn’t that life?  You take the good and the bad, mix it all together and it is a beautiful gift.

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The Immutability of God

Now what does that exactly mean?  Immutable means: Fixed, set, established, doesn’t change, constant, static, enduring, permanent.  I absolutely love this!

God’s unchanging nature has always been one of the most precious qualities to me.  He will not change.  He cannot change.  He isn’t loving today and hateful tomorrow.  He doesn’t forgive me today and hold a grudge against me tomorrow.  He isn’t kind today and evil tomorrow.  He cannot change.  It isn’t in His divine nature, friend.  Isn’t that comforting to know?

Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”

Verse 17 goes on to say, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Psalm 107:8-9 says, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He satisfied the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

That’s the character of the God I serve.  He is good.  He is merciful.  He is just.

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

 ~ I John 4:7-8

He is loving.  These Scriptures demonstrate and reveal to us the unchanging character of God.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”  ~ Hebrews 13:8

He will not change.  He cannot change.

He has loved us with an everlasting love.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

When my circumstances change, my God does not.  When my seasons change, God remains constant.  When my bank account changes or my relationships change, God is steadfast, unmovable in His love and grace for my life.

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I challenge you today, friend, to dig into the Word of God and see God’s character for yourself.  “O, taste and see, that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8). Do not neglect the Scriptures because the task seems tedious.  Our lives can become so hectic and fast paced that we lose sight of the true source of our strength.  Get into the habit of daily reading the Word of God and not merely checking off a reading list.  God is more interested in your spiritual growth than how many chapters you’re rushing through each day.  Read His love story to us and watch your spirit soar and your walk with Christ grow in ways you never knew were possible!

Blessings, my friend!  May we continually grow in His grace.  And may you be reminded of God’s constant character and steadfast love.

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Joy in the Storm

A friend recently asked how I was managing with some challenges and all I could muster was that I was relying on God’s strength.  I said, “All I have is God … and He is more than enough.”  I also said that sometimes you simply keep placing one foot in front of the other.

Of course, my daily devotions spent in the Word of God and prayer are what sustain this weary heart on the difficult days.  Despite the storm clouds that surround, “My anchor holds within the vale.”  I have a deep, wellspring of joy on the inside that is not conditional on my circumstances but is a true gift from God.

It is possible to have peace and joy regardless of the dark clouds that rage.  This world is not our final destination.  During times of struggle, I especially love to listen to praise and worship music.  When we worship God, we are inviting His presence into our lives and into our situation.  I firmly believe that.  And, how I need Him.

John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Life continually has its valleys and mountain tops.  We cannot prevent either from happening but we can control our responses to each.  We can determine in our hearts that no matter what happens, we will dig deep in His Word for wisdom, instruction and comfort.  No matter what, we will pray and praise God for Who He is, not just for what He does for us.

When we focus on our blessings more than our problems, there is a shift in our attitude and perspective.  Whatever we face, God is bigger.

What if we recall the countless times in the past that God has delivered us and answered prayer?  What if we praised Him in advance for all that He has planned in our lives?

What if, even through the storm, others could witness God’s strength and power demonstrated in our lives?

Joy is possible in the darkest of nights.

Peace is available too.

Faith is the seed that makes these a reality in our hearts.

…Instead of searching for the nearest exit during your storm, why not praise God for what He will teach you through the challenging circumstances?  Why not ask Him to shine through your darkness to be a blessing to others around you that they may glorify God?

What if you are going through a trial and it’s not even about you but to help somebody else?

When we are able to change our perspective, we are able to change our reality.

Trust God.  Pray.  Praise.  Watch Him work in your life in amazing ways.

Rinse.  Repeat.

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Never Give Up!

Winston Churchill gave a famous speech where he uttered:

“Never, never, never give up!”

He also said, “If you’re going through hell – keep going!”

I want to urge you today that if you seem to be facing insurmountable odds and life is just too difficult to go on … Keep placing one foot in front of the other!  Baby steps.

One step leads to another and before you know it, you are in a new season of life.  Life is ever changing and things won’t always remain the same.

Sometimes it’s easy for our emotions to get the best of us and we can readily succumb to the devil’s lies that we should simply throw in the towel.  Life is just too hard.

Life is hard sometimes and its load can seem overwhelming, but you and I are here for a purpose.  God created each one of us and has placed unique gifts and talents inside each of us.

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

~ II Corinthians 12:9-11

I pray that if you find the pain of your life unbearable today, my friend, that Jesus would hold you close and reveal His love to you as only He can.  You are loved by an Almighty God, who knows everything about you and still chooses to love.  That’s love, friend.  He loves with an unfailing, never ending kind of love.  I pray that God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding, would so envelope your soul that you will find rest and comfort like you’ve never known.  Lastly, I pray for God’s grace to be with you during this trying time, that God will provide for your every need and that you will have renewed hope in Christ.

This world is not our home.  We are pilgrims passing through until that day when God calls us home.  Until then, this world needs you.  This world needs to see God’s love demonstrated through your life.

May we all be strengthened in His might and His power to be a blessing to a lost and dying world.

Never give up, my friend.

Greater things are in store for you!  Your miracle and breakthrough could be just around the corner.  Don’t quit now!  Keep walking this faith walk.  God will give you the strength.  Trust Him today.

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Stewards of Time

Did you know that in a lifetime, the average American will sit at a stop light for six months?  Eight months opening junk mail?  One year looking for misplaced objects?  Two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls and five years waiting in line?

These figures seem impossible to fully comprehend, but somewhere in a sterile cubicle, a statistician has reduced our lives to such peculiar numbers.  If they don’t offer one the opportunity for pause, I’m not sure what will.  Seeing my life in these terms definitely makes me reassess my priorities.

The reality for each of us is, we don’t have nearly as much time on this earth as we originally thought.  We just get complacent that somehow time will stand still for us and that we’ll always have tomorrow to do things, when that is not necessarily the case.  Each of us are allotted a certain number of days and then our lives here on earth will be completed.  What we do in the meantime is up to us.

What will we do with that time?

It is incredibly amazing to me the amount of time people spend watching television, movies, playing video games, etc.  Of course, there is a time and a place for R & R.  Yes, there is.  But, not at the price of neglecting relationships, housework, and other priorities, etc.  And add to our obsession list, the advent of smart phones and we run the further risk of becoming a true ostrich.  What is one to do?

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may have a wise heart.”

I think periodically it’s a good idea to reassess how we are spending our free time.  I am a stay-at-home mom but for those who work outside the home, we are targeting the time you have on your hands after you clock out.  For me, my work never ends as I have two teenagers, am married and care for an elderly father at home.  I still have a few moments to call my own.  So what do we do with those?

Are we using our time wisely?  What if we knew we only had a certain number of years remaining in our life cycle?  Would we skip vegging on YouTube or Facebook a bit more?  Would we reach out and call our loved ones on the telephone or even better, visit them in person more?  Texting is lovely but it can never replace our humanity.

Pause is necessary in our crazy busy culture.  What do you hope to achieve in your lifetime?  What kind of person do you hope others remember you being?  Are you that person?  If not, what steps can you take toward becoming that person?

With technology ever in the forefront of our lives, down time is increasingly important for reflection.  Take a walk in your neighborhood or by the lake or on the beach.  Breath in fresh air.  They say when we get out in nature, it has a relaxing effect.  I think we all need more of that in our fast paced society.

Here’s hoping you’ll be a wise steward of your days.

They say no man on his deathbed ever wished they’d spent more time at the office.  No, they often say they wished they spent more time with their family.  Maybe it’s time for a pause, a time of reflection to review priorities.

We are all given the same 24 hours in a day.  It’s how we spend it that is up to us.

 

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Fear

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave the famous refrain in his first inaugural address:

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

That’s pretty true, isn’t it?  Some of us come by worrying and fear more naturally than others but I think the reality is, we’re all susceptible to feelings of fear at some time or another in our lives.  Now, our “fight or flight” reactions may spark fear but are intended to preserve our lives.  I’m talking about living in a constant, vicious cycle of fear.

I discussed in yesterday’s post the fact that you’re never alone and the fact that it has got to be one of the devil’s most overused tools on us, as Christians.  Well, fear has to be a close second.  It is a real bondage to be so wrapped in fear that you cannot face the future with optimism and hope.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked at an independent living apartment complex for senior citizens.  I was an administrative assistant and one of my daily jobs was to take Mrs. Augustine her mail as she was too afraid to leave her apartment for fear the mafia would come for her.  She was a sweet lady but clearly had some problems.

As outlandish as this may sound, we all have things we do or don’t do out of fear.  Now, some of those things are good.  For instance, we don’t walk in the middle of the street because we could be struck by an oncoming car.  That is a valid fear and one we should heed.  We do not submit our income taxes late for fear of being fined.  We do not place our hand on a hot stove for fear of being burned.  All very good things.

However, there are also things we do or don’t do out of an unhealthy fear.

We don’t attend church or a certain Bible study out of fear of being judged.  We don’t have a gym membership for fear of being ridiculed.  We don’t leave the house without make-up because we fear being inadequate.  We don’t volunteer for a project because we fear our talents are insufficient.

You get the idea.  These are negative fears that can impact us if repeated long enough.

This is one of my 2017 goals:

“Face life unafraid!”

Not afraid of what someone else thinks.  Not afraid of failure.  Not afraid of insufficiencies.   Not afraid of being imperfect.  Not afraid of what “might” happen.  Not afraid of someone else’s approval or response.  Not afraid of being misunderstood.  NOT AFRAID!

What if we all lived like this?

What if we took the shackles off and simply lived life the best we could?  … without all the mental clutter, all the “what if’s”, all the insecurities?

The reality is that no one is perfect.  No one.  So, your failures will not surprise anyone.   They are common place, my friend.  My goal this year is to live life to the best of my ability and rest knowing that, that is good enough.  My goal is also to face my fears, wherever I may find them, head on.  I have found that when I actually get around to doing a task on my “to do” list that I’ve been dreading, I often wonder why it took me so long.  We have to muster up our courage and run toward our fears, instead of running from them.  If our backs are facing the fear, then we are on the wrong side.

Sometimes we fear the unknown.  That is a valid fear.  After all, none of us know the future.  However, we must come to the place that, although we may not know the future, we know WHO holds the future.  And that is God.

It is said that there are 365 Bible verses on the topic of fear – one for each day.  I think that is so neat.  God knew we would need constant reminders of His presence and His grace in our lives.  He knows how weak we are.

Can I challenge you today to face your fears?  The days of sweeping them under the rug are gone.  Deal with the dust bunnies in your life and move on so there can be closure.  Don’t allow fear or anything else to keep you from forward progress in your life.  Forward momentum is what productive, happy lives are made of.  The moment we begin to get “stuck” is the moment we succumb to traps of the enemy and snares that bind us.  Determine today that with God’s help, you will move forward with His strength and face your fears.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

 

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You Are Never Alone

This has got to be one of the devil’s most sharpened tools he uses against Christians.  Nobody cares.  You might as well give up.  And, all too often, we fall for it, hook, line and sinker!

Nothing could be further from the truth!  If we can dodge the “Woe is me” bullet long enough to look around us, most of us are surrounded by family who love us dearly.  Above that, God promises in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

This is so true.  During times in my life that I have felt the most alone, those have been times that I was not spending adequate time reading God’s Word and praying.  It is there we will find strength from God and sense His presence in our lives.

Never fall for this lie from the enemy of our souls that we are alone.  There is always someone you can reach out to.  Now, there lies the caveat.  Sometimes, perhaps too many times, we are hesitant to reach out and become vulnerable enough to let someone know we need help.  Most people would be willing to assist, but they are not mind readers.  You have to let people know of your needs.

You will find peace in God’s Word and reassurance that truly God is with you every step of life’s journey.  Sometimes it’s a matter of us acknowledging His presence and asking for His guidance and help.

The truth is:  You Are Never Alone!

Let that sink in.

The devil wants to discourage believers because if you are a weak, anemic Christian, you can’t be effective as God’s Ambassador.  However, if we can move past this lie of discouragement, we can experience the peace of God and find contentment.

You are never alone.  It bears repeating.

Now, find someone who needs to hear this and reach out to them.  It’s so important for Christians to be God’s hands and feet extended.  The world will never know unless we show them with our love.  It’s been said that you are the only Bible some will ever read.  That’s so true.  Let someone know they are not alone today.

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Developing a Monthly Budget

Budgeting sounds very boring, doesn’t it?  The fact of the matter is, if you don’t have a budget, you can quickly find yourself in financial ruin.

Dave Ramsey says the definition of a budget is:

“Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

That is exactly what a budget is!  The reality is that in order to achieve your financial goals you have to have in mind how much of your hard earned money is going out the door in each category of your life.

I strongly recommend Dave Ramsey’s website on developing a budget and tons of financial advice.

Below is an Example of what a Family Budget may look like:

Tithes:

Mortgage:

Groceries:

Electricity:

Water:

Pool maintenance:

Alarm co.:

Car Insurance:

Gas:

Life Insurance:

Credit Cards:

Medical:

RX:

Kid’s Braces:

House Maintenance:

Clothing:

Hair cuts:

Birthdays:

Christmas:

Vacation:

Savings:

 

So, you would simply fill in each applicable category.  If the total exceeds your monthly income, then an adjustment is necessary.  If you have more money left at the end of the month after all your bills are paid, then allot more in the savings category.  You can never have too much savings!

All of this is easier said than done, but once you exercise the self-discipline to implement a monthly budget, you will love the results!  Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went is a beautiful thing!

Of course, the goal is to eliminate debt and save toward things you really want – say a house, a vacation, a car, etc.

Happy budgeting and here’s to a prosperous New Year!

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100 Items to Get Rid of Now

  1. Duplicate appliances
  2. Mismatched socks
  3. Utility bills from last year
  4. The 99th piece of artwork your child ever created
  5. The 99th article of clothing your precious angel ever wore
  6. Knick knacks someone gave you that you really don’t like
  7. Items you inherited but don’t love.
  8. Broken beyond repair items
  9. Dust collectors you no longer enjoy (think figurines, collectables, etc.)
  10. Supplies to a hobby you no longer pursue
  11. Old toiletry items that are expired or of no use to you
  12. Something you planned on repairing/refurbishing but lack the motivation/time
  13. Clothing that is too small/large
  14. Clothing that you don’t feel good in
  15. Shoes you never wear
  16. Hats gathering dust
  17. An overrun of jackets/coats
  18. Curtains from a former house that you have no plans of using
  19. Curtain rod that you’re not using
  20. Rolled up rugs from a former house…
  21. Expired canned goods, crackers, etc.
  22. Expired spices
  23. A food item you bought because it was on sale but no one will eat
  24. The owner’s manual to a piece of equipment/appliance you no longer own
  25. Fabric & pattern to a cute, little sundress you were going to make for your daughter but…she’s now 19
  26. Snow shovel but you live in Florida.
  27. Wool sweater, scarf, mittens, etc. but you live in Florida…
  28. A Q-tip box with 2 left. Refill the jar you store them in and move on…
  29. Unnecessary restaurant menus
  30. Old business cards that you don’t even recognize their name
  31. Empty water bottles. Is my family the only one who leaves these laying around?
  32. Cereal boxes. Pour them into airtight container & recycle box.
  33. Anything with a green parasite living on it in your refrigerator.
  34. That sponge that reeks.
  35. The chewed up toothbrush that couldn’t possible reach plaque in between your teeth
  36. The deodorant tube that is empty. Again, is mine the only household who does this?
  37. A souvenir that has outlasted its sense of treasure
  38. Dried up glue container.
  39. Unidentified object lurking in your freezer. Let it go.  It’s been too long…
  40. Sleeping bags and nobody camps or slumbers in them
  41. Excess pillows, sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels
  42. An abandoned musical instrument
  43. Vitamins/medicine out of date or no longer used
  44. Plastic grocery bags if you aren’t using them in a reasonable period of time
  45. An attachment/part to something you no longer own
  46. Empty cardboard boxes (unless you’re planning to move)
  47. Candy wrappers in between the couch cushions
  48. Paperwork from the doctor’s office that isn’t important
  49. That pink or tan hospital basin you got in 1978…
  50. The t.v. that stopped working in 1989…
  51. That National Geographic magazine collection that no one ever looks at
  52. pamphlets that accumulate like dust bunnies around the house
  53. The remote to a t.v./VCR that is long gone
  54. Last year’s calendar
  55. Aquarium supplies when you donated the aquarium years ago
  56. When you have 10 throws, give one away…or five…
  57. Duplicate books
  58. “How to” books when you don’t plan on doing anything…
  59. the Sunday comics/old newspapers
  60. stacks of magazines
  61. crutches from the time you broke your leg twenty years ago
  62. the walker from your rehab
  63. ace bandages that no longer have their elastic support
  64. nail polish that is thick and lumpy
  65. nail files that couldn’t whittle your pinky nail if it tried.
  66. That package of plastic cups from the New Year’s party in 1965…
  67. Broken tool
  68. Caulk or paint that is past its prime
  69. Elastic hair bands that are stretched out/useless
  70. Expired/unwanted hair coloring
  71. Old costume jewelry you haven’t worn in ten years
  72. Underwear that are two sizes too small
  73. A broken calculator
  74. Old cell phones/chargers
  75. A broken PC
  76. A failed craft project that you’re not going to attempt to fix
  77. A junk car that realistically you won’t have the time/money to repair
  78. Cookbooks you don’t/won’t use
  79. That set of c.d.’s on a foreign language you are no longer interested in learning
  80. Twin sheets when all your beds are queens or kings
  81. That cheap, plastic cup/travel mug that was a give away item from the bank, etc…
  82. That work manual for every course you’ve ever taken as an adult
  83. A large bird cage when you haven’t had a pet bird in years
  84. Diapers when your youngest is nineteen
  85. Christmas cards you received last year
  86. More packing material that you will feasibly use in the near future
  87. Cable t.v. (& the boxes, remotes, expense)
  88. Bad habits.
  89. Negative attitude
  90. Friends who aren’t good influences
  91. Empty calories
  92. Time wasters
  93. Ink pens that no longer write
  94. Broken crayons
  95. Checkbooks to a closed account
  96. An empty printer ink cartridge
  97. Fishing rod that nobody uses
  98. Bicycle training wheels and your kids are grown…
  99. Air mattress with holes
  100. Coloring book that has all its pages colored

There you have it, folks! 

100 items that can either be deposited in:

the recycling bin,   donation box,   the trash can   or out the window!

Obviously, some of these points are tongue-in-cheek, but you get the idea.

This list could be endless but hopefully it generates more ideas and further motivation to part with items that have outlasted their usefulness.  That’s the whole idea!

Happy Decluttering!

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Excess and Balance

I’ve often contemplated this seeming disease that plagues us.  I love to organize and clean things and have since I was a kid.  Definitely a “Type A” personality here.  Just for fun, I enjoy watching YouTube videos on organizing and cleaning, and I’m amazed at the glutton of household items average people possess!

I will preface any further observations and opinions by saying – We have moved many times in our twenty-one year marriage, which forces close scrutiny of one’s “stuff”.  That said, we’ve had Salvation Army cost out twice with their big truck to haul away many boxes, faux ficus trees, train sets, brick-a-brack, clothing, china, etc.  In addition to that, we’ve taken bag after bag to Goodwill almost weekly for the past year as we continue to sort through boxes.  Incredible the volume one collects over the years!

So, I’ve been forced to handle every item and evaluate.  I can only imagine the challenge for those who’ve lived in the same house for twenty plus years and how quickly things can get out of control.  Tastes in decor and furnishings change, fads come and go, the kids outgrow toys and clothes, hobbies move on, etc.  And if you have an issue with excessive shopping, especially as a means of therapy; well, then, all bets are off!  An intervention may be necessary.  Haha.

If a Type A like myself can accumulate a fair amount of excess, then anyone can.  It seems so easy to allow things into our home and we have no real method of allowing an exit for anything!

Dealing with our excess …

When sorting through a room/box/dresser, I always ask myself three questions:

1.) Am I currently using it?

2.) Have I used it in the last year?

3.) Will I likely use it in the next year?

The consequence of holding onto excess is that they seem to multiply and therefore occupy mental space as well.  They bog us down and we are hindered from letting our creative juices flow and finding general happiness from a tidy room.  They are “non-value added items”.  Now, I am not suggesting getting rid of all sentimental things or counting your household goods, etc.  I am, however, offering a method to consider applying to our excess, which seems to be an epidemic.

I recently read a statistic that said 10% of Americans rent a storage unit outside their home!  Wow!  That is staggering  and in my humble opinion, a huge waste of money.  If we do not have room to house said item, then maybe we don’t have room in our lives for it.  I understand there are causes for short term leasing, such as military personnel, etc.  But, we’re talking about long term leasing.  Why do we have so much stuff?

I often tell my kids that when I was their age, we didn’t have Walmart to run to for whatever item we thought we needed at that split second.  There were grocery stores, hardware stores, department stores, etc.  And things were pretty expensive, so we didn’t often get new things outside of Christmas, birthdays, and a new school year.  This must be a foreign concept to them as now we even have the all-too-tempting Amazon and internet shopping in general.

Stuff is so entirely accessible.  Add to that the “in your face” marketing that envelopes our society and there seems to be no escape!

On the flip side of consumerism, we have this new trend of minimalism.  Interesting.  While I think there are merits to this idea, I personally do not think it is for me.  But, I do wholeheartedly agree with the need for keeping our “stuff” to a minimum but in a more balanced way.  For instance, I don’t feel like our family needs seven bottles of shampoo and conditioner, nor do I feel the need to count our toiletries.  I don’t believe we need three sets of everyday dishes, nor do I feel like we should count our plates and bowls.

To every area of life, there should be balance.

So how do we achieve this balance with our stuff?

I would say that we have to nip it in the bud.  Deeply evaluate items before we purchase them.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that will work just as well?  Do I need “another” one?  Will it add value to my life?

It seems that once an item enters our homes, it takes up near permanent residence and eventually reaches the point of excess.  I like the “one in – one out” idea.  If you purchase one item, you put one item in the donation box.  Simple idea but effective.

I think the greatest purging, organizing, decluttering, cleaning tool you have is …

your attitude, frankly.

“Attitude determines altitude.”

Like any other aspect of life, the results are impacted by the space between your ears.

If you have a sloppy, couldn’t care less attitude, then your home will reflect that.  If you are disciplined and focused, however, your home will reflect that also.

“Input yields output.”

Put on some happy music.  Whatever that is to you.  Sometimes I prefer classical, sometimes contemporary Christian music, sometimes easy listening.  Depends on my mood, I guess.  Whatever will inspire you and bring happy feelings, put it on.  Music has an amazing ability to carry us away from our present tasks (mundane as they may be) and take us to a joyful place in our soul.

Give yourself a pat on the back during each step of your progress.  You deserve it.  As long as your feet keep moving in a positive direction, you are one step closer to the environment you desire.

Just think of the joy you could bring to someone less fortunate as you place unwanted items in the donation box.  And, next time you feel the urge to place an Amazon order or hit the mall, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war plan to develop regarding the glut in our garage…

 

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