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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Surprised by JOY!

Back in late October when I first began praying and asking the Holy Spirit to speak a word over my life for 2017, my heart was gravitating towards words like "Simple" and "Slow", and "Rest", all the things I desperately long for deep in my soul. So in December when the word JOY started popping up everywhere I looked, which is almost always the way this process works, (I've done this for the past 6 years now), I was a little taken back.

OK, so maybe I do get overwhelmed at times and that makes me grumpy, maybe there are days when I'm a little down and blue, but JOY? When I thought about JOY all I could envision was one of those sappy, happy to the point of being sticky drenched with JOY, oozing gooey JOY kind of people. You know the ones, with the big toothy smiles that seem molded to their face. They never stop smiling, the entire time they are talking to you it's through that smile. Don't they realize you can't speak clearly when your mouth is stretched across your face from ear to ear? No! I thought, I absolutely will not be one of those JOYful people! But the Holy Spirit was persistent, it continued to show up, again, and again and again until it was unavoidable, this was my word, JOY was my word for 2017!

In all the years I'd done this all of the other words has made sense. In 2011 my word was Good. Up until that year I had never trusted God, I viewed Him as a distant, uncaring being whose presence I only felt when I'd done something wrong. In 2011 God wanted to show me that He was good, and He did. In 2012 the word was Surrender, which in the end was the most meaningful as this was the year that on November 26, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. In 2013 it was Free. which made perfect sense following surrender.  In the beginning I thought freedom meant that by accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior I was completely, 100% free! No more struggles, no more worries, no more pain. And don't get me wrong, as much as it depends on Him, and it is ALL about Him, we are washed clean, our sins are forgiven, and in that moment we are free! But let's be real people, we are also human, and so many of us, myself included, return so quickly to our old ways and to the sin that is engrained in us. Because of Christ the freedom is still there, but we have to continue to choose it. I had no idea how much more the Lord had for me, or of the freedom that was still to come. That was the year that I learned that freedom is ongoing and that every day and with every choice, we choose to either walk in freedom or remain in sin and bondage. In 2014 it was Change, which I hated from the beginning but was eerily not surprised by. Looking back I realize it was the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit, preparing me not only for all of the changes that would come in that year, but over the next few years as well. In 2015 my word was Still, as in "Be still and know that I am God". 2015 was a hard year, but of course now I know it was just the precursor of what was to come. In 2015 I began to learn how to be still and quiet my spirit in the face of hurt and pain and to take refuge under God's loving and protective wing. Something I would rely heavily upon in the coming year. Then came 2016 when my word was Trust, and looking back I'm not sure I would have survived the year without it. With trust foremost on my mind, as life crumbled beneath my feet and I faced my worst fears I found that I was still standing, held and supported by the mighty hand of God. As if He even needed to the Holy Spirit had reminded me of His faithfulness, had shown me that He could be trusted with this task. He not only knew the words for my life, but that He was in very close communion with their author, God, my Father.  And with that, I embraced JOY!

Most of you probably don't know this about me, but I've always been a bit of a pessimist, a "the glass is half empty" kind of girl. In fact, "a bit" is probably allowing myself too much grace, I may very well be the poster child for pessimism. And you only have to look back to 2011 and reflect upon my view of God to gain an understanding of perhaps why I am this way. I hate to say that my life has always been hard, because I am all too aware that by comparison with the rest of the world it has been anything but. There's never been a day when I wasn't warm and clothed.  I've never had to worry where my next meal was coming from, or where I would sleep that night.  But in 2011 I didn't think about those things. The hurt and pain from events in my life from years before consumed me, and I believed that only an unloving, uncaring, cold and distant God would allow that. That was why the first step in my story of redemption had to be to believe that He was good, because without that, if I didn't believe in His goodness, if I didn't know that He loved me and was for me, then nothing else was even possible. This is why good was followed by surrender, and surrender was followed by free, and so on and so on until by the time I reached 2016 and my word was trust, do you see it? I'm tearing up just writing about it, His faithfulness to me, how He carefully chose and grafted each word into my heart and my life. In 2011 it had to be good so that in 2016, I could firmly, confidently, and assuredly TRUST! And now, it is JOY, which true to my personal history, is so much more than I imagined.

I am ashamed to say that in spite of His faithfulness to me, in spite of His goodness, I'm still a pessimist.  It never occurred me until I began to embrace JOY, that I had another choice. It seemed that no matter what I touched, be it a simple task like trying to get my Texas driver's license, which took me months and involved more paperwork than any other life event in my personal history, was wrought with angst and hardship. Nothing was or let's be honest, even now is easy. Going back to school to get my degree, good thing, right?  Noble pursuit, made harder for me because of a choice I made way back in 1993 when I first embarked on this dream and withdrew due to a divorce. Old ghosts linger, the enemy persists daily whispering his lies, and I listen. I thought JOY meant being happy at all times, no matter what the circumstances and how was that even humanly possible? I didn't even want to be that person, it didn't seem honest or authentic. But the truth is, happiness and JOY are two entirely different things. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that is brought on by events and circumstances outside of ourselves and over which we have no control.  When things are good, when something pleasant happens to us, then we are happy, and when it doesn't, when it is hurtful and hard, then we are not. It's hard to be happy when you're hurting, when things are hard, but to be JOYful, I'm here to tell you, JOY is possible!

As I mentioned above, so many things in my life, from simple tasks to major life events have been a struggle. I am sure you can all relate to that on some level. And in my longing for "simple" and "slow" what I also desired was for life to stop being so hard, such a struggle. But what I didn't realize, is that my outlook was part of the problem. Rather than seeing life into my hardships, I just defaulted to my familiar position of, "Well of course this isn't going to be easy, of course there's a problem, because this is me, this is my life, why would I expect anything else?" And that question answers itself precisely, because I wasn't expecting anything else! I expected hard, I envisioned hard, and by expecting the worst from every situation, I had become my own self fulfilling prophecy. And so I struggled, day to day, crisis to crisis, bruised and battered by circumstances never realizing that I had any other choice, that at any moment I could choose JOY!

But then, just last week, when I opened up an email that at the moment felt as though it was nailing closed the coffin filled with my dreams, it finally happened. In that moment, when I realized that I had lost my financial aid, been dropped from the spring semester, and all because of a choice I made 23 years ago the Holy Spirit whispered JOY! The choice wasn't immediate and it was so uncharacteristic of me, but I made it and I let go and trusted that in spite of my circumstances that this was the path for me and that everything was going to be alright. I trusted the goodness of God that I learned all those years before, and I expected the best instead of the worst from this outcome.  For the first time in my life I embraced a happy ending!

Most of you know the outcome of that story, because I've already shared it. My request for reinstatement was fast tracked and by the end of week I was re-enrolled and on my way and I began the Spring semester this week. I credit all of that to God's divine plan and to the work of the Holy Spirit, but also to JOY!  I embraced JOY, spoke JOY into a dark, seemingly impossible situation in my life and believed that whatever the outcome it would be good.  And because of JOY, I can tell you that I would have been at peace with either outcome. In fact, in some ways not being a full time college student would have been easier, but I'm ok with it being hard because of what I am learning about JOY!

Unlike happiness, JOY is not dependent upon outside events and circumstance, but is rather a choice you make in the midst of them. Change and setbacks, they happen to all of us. Life can be hard and things make us sad sometimes, and it's OK to be sad for a little while.  But don't allow yourself to stay there for long. In the midst of hard, in the midst of sad, choose JOY, choose to believe that even if this is not the path you would have chosen, or even if the hardship you are experiencing is precisely because you made the wrong choice, see life in it, speak life into it and not death.  Choose JOY, choose to believe in a happy ending, and then stand back and watch your life transform before your very eyes!  I'm not promising wealth and riches here, just the fulness and richness with which you will view life, and that is priceless! And don't worry, you won't be one of those sappy happy people with a fake smile plastered across your face.  JOY isn't about the smile on your face, it radiates from a place deep in your soul!  JOY is looking up and seeing God smiling back at you! :)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Delightful Dozen - .01

1.) Having your own Epiphany

2.) Why Keeping a Sabbath Should Be Your New Year's Resolution

3.) Silence

4.) Learning New Words Each Day Can Make You Much Smarter

5.) 5 Apps That Will Simplify Your Life

6.) Top 10 TED Talks That Could Change Your Life

7.) The Top 10 Blogs to Get Your Life In Order

8.) A Cozy Winter Reading List

9.) The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter

10.) Holy Spirit, Here's My Planner

11.) One Thing I'm Adding to My Routine This Year

12.) The Bush Sister's Wrote the Obama Girls a Letter

And as an addendum of sorts I want to leave you with this, for it is truly worth reading. I came across this earlier this week, written, I was surprised to discover, by C. S. Lewis, although upon further reflection, I wonder who else I believe could have said it best.  There are times in life when words touch me in such a profound way, as was the case when I read this.  I know that in Lewis I have found a kindred spirit, for he so often puts words to the secret inaudible yearnings of my heart.  ~ Enjoy

"You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw - but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of - something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clapclap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it - tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest - if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all."

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain 

Friday, January 13, 2017

I'm In! 52 Weeks to an Organized Home

I've seen a lot of posts this week from friends who are participating in Home Storage Solutions 52 Weeks to an Organized Home, so I decided a little late in the game to go ahead and join in.

Now as many of you may know, I am currently living with and caring for my mom, but since I am now the one who is primarily responsible for cooking and cleaning, my mom has no qualms with any cleaning and organizing that I want to do.  And since I am also a busy mom myself, and a full time college student, I decided that this might be just the organizational tool I need to keep things running efficiently for all of us while breaking it down into easy doable steps.

This week's challenge is Countertops and Sinks and essentially just thinking through how the space in your kitchen functions and flows.

So here's the first picture. This is the main working space in the kitchen, which as you can see is small and limited.  There is a another counter on the other side of the sink, but it is where we keep the toaster and coffee maker and actually has less space than this one.

As you can probably tell, I had just finished scrubbing and wiping down the countertops so they are pretty and shiny.  In my own home I didn't keep canisters on the counter and instead kept my flour and sugar and such in plastic containers in the cabinet.  But my mom loves her cow canisters so even though they do take up a little space they are pretty easy to work around.

Another thing that was mentioned in this post was keeping the kitchen table as clutter free as possible.  So here is our table, which is actually my table that I brought with me when I moved in.  Mom's table and chairs were old and she only had 2 chairs, so she was happy to let me put my beloved black table in the dining area of the kitchen.  So this is as cleared as I typically keep the table since I prefer a few decorative pieces in the middle.  The fruit basket and antique spool candleholders are mine and the chicken and rooster belong to my mom.  I love the way our things just naturally work together to make for a lovely home for all of us.

"The kitchen is the heart of the home."
And then finally, here is cozy picture of the shelf where I keep our dishes.  Since my mom's kitchen (her house was built in 1957), has very little cabinet space.  I opted when I moved in to keep our dishes on a black shelf that we have used in our kitchen for years now, very often for this very purpose.  It seems I've lived in a number of places with limited cabinet space, and displaying them on this shelf has been something I've done many times before.  I have two sets of dishes, one yellow (pictured) and another set that is red.  It is a cold, rainy day here and I just love how cozy and warm this picture looks.

So there you have it, my efforts to organize this space we share, my childhood home.  I have so many memories of my life here, and it's really so nice to be making new memories again with my mom and my daughter.  Here is a picture of the kitchen from this afternoon after I had finished cleaning it.  I would love to sand these old cabinets down and paint them, but there's also something so comforting about the memories that this room evokes.  I do plan to hang a blind and some cute curtains in that window though.  The house faces the east and the kitchen is on the back side of the house, so when the sun comes through that west window in the late afternoon it is almost blinding!

If you'd like to know more about the challenge you can do so here.

And now I'm off to make one of my girl's favorite's, Tater Tot Casserole, for supper!

Until then, my friends, take joy!

ADDENDUM: Nothing like taking a picture to point out where you've fallen behind.  The potholders just above the stove have been there since, oh, late September!  I have other potholders for daily use so I honestly never think much about these.  They have since been removed! Maybe I should walk around and take pictures all through the house! 


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pretty Planning Resources

I've been tweaking my planner(s) a little more over the last few days and in doing so I've come across some lovely resources that I just have to share!

First, you'll want to be sure to download this cute little minimal calendar for 2017.  I printed off one today and placed it in the front of my binder!  I don't know about you, but there are so many times when I need to know a date several months in advance, and while it's pretty easy to just look at the calendar on my phone, it's even easier for me since my planner is always nearby to  look there!  I have it tucked away in a sheet protector on the opposite side of my monthly calendar.

And speaking of monthly calendars, just take a look at the adorable chalkboard calendar (right) from Botanical Paperworks and it is absolutely FREE!  I found this late last year and knew from the moment I saw it that this was my go to monthly calendar for my planner.  While I love my own two page calendar (featured in the top left sidebar), and will continue to make them, they are really designed more for taking note of special holidays, the liturgical year, and things of that nature.  But this calendar is where I pencil in absolutely EVERYTHING that is happening in a given month.  It is perfect for such, and in fact I actually print off two copies, one for my planner and another that I have pinned on my bulletin board for quick and easy reference, and just to add a touch of loveliness!  If you want something that might use a little less ink for printing, I also like this calendar over at Shining Mom.  She has FREE printables, too, so be sure to check them out!

But then, if you want to break things down even further and have a form for mapping out your weeks, look no further than the printable gold mine that is Skip to My Lou!  Her FREE goal setting worksheet package has a Week at a Glance form that is perfect for planning your days!  And be sure to check out her FREE printables section which is a rich storehouse of wonderful resources!  I've already printed several things I found, including this adorable printable calendar!  I'm not even sure how I'm going to use this, but it was just too cute not to print!

From there if you need to break things down by the day, as most of us do, you will find several printables at The Organised Student that are sure to fit your needs.  I think I downloaded everything I found here.  If you look at the picture I took at the top of the page, that's the Month at a Glance (scroll down to find it) form that I found here.  I printed off twelve of these and they are now the first page of each month in my planner.  I've also printed off several of the forms she has created specifically for students and I'm looking forward to using them once classes begin again next week!

Then, there is this great set of printables (left) from The Mountain View Cottage.  I downloaded and printed off this set and I'm currently working on getting them all filled in and in my home keeping planner.  I'm using sheet protectors for durability because these are just so darn cute I want them to last awhile!  While your there be sure to check our her entire printables section!  I've already got my eye on a few things I'm going to print off and use in a project I'm working on.

We're reaching the end, but I had to share these Beautiful Monthly and Today Planner tabs from Felly Bee. I just love these!  I printed these off on card stock today and I'm going to buy some laminate sheets while I'm out purchasing some other supplies I need for school tomorrow and cover them to make them sturdier!  So pretty!

And while I haven't had a chance to look at everything Planning Inspired has to offer, I did sign up to get her 2017 Calendar inserts!  I need the personal size for my student planner and these like they will work nicely.

And finally, something I have decided that this next form has become absolutely necessary as part of my planner, a Password Keeper for keeping track of all those 8 letter, 1 upper case, 1 lower case, 1 number, 1 symbol passwords that I keep forgetting!  I'm thankful that my computer keeps track of most of them, but sometimes when it gets bogged down and I have to clear things out then I'm back to square one and sending myself email after email to reset my password!  Hopefully with this those days will be over.

While I love the look of some of the more expensive planners I've seen, with all the wonderful free printable that are available there is really no reason why you couldn't spend an afternoon putting together a system that works for you and everything you need is already made and at your fingertips!

Do you have a favorite FREE planning resource?  If so, please share in the comments.  I'd love to take a look at what resources I might have missed.

Until then, take joy, my friends!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Yarn Along #4

I've only had a little time this to week to work on my scarf, but it's such a delight!  Simple, beautiful, and I absolutely love this colorway, all my favorites!

I picked up Present Over Perfect from the library a few days ago and I'm looking forward to digging into it over the weekend.  I also launched a book group with a few friends on Facebook this week and we are reading One Thousand Gifts together and focusing on gratitude!  It's my second reading but after just one chapter I'm already inspired by all the wonderful nuggets of wisdom that are tucked between the pages.

The spring semester begins in earnest on the 17th, so much of my reading for the foreseeable future will be academic in nature, but that's OK.  I do plan to set aside a certain amount of time each day and every Satruday after 2:00 p.m. through Sunday for a weekly sabbath and engaging in things that bring me pleasure!  Hopefully I'll be able to fall into a rhythm quickly now that I've got one semester under my belt.  It's all about balance!

If you'd like to participate in this week's yarn along, simply follow this link.

Until then, take joy, my friends!


Monday, January 9, 2017

When Your Plans Change

Today I'm going to write a post that is a little more personal in nature.  I've been around the blogging world for awhile now, and one of the things that is important me in writing my own blog is transparency.  With that, I do realize that most people have enough of their own personal struggles in life and they don't usually "go down the rabbit hole" in search of post after post from other bloggers who are documenting their struggles as well.  BUT, one message I do not want my blog to send  is that I've got it all together or that I never struggle, that my house is always clean, the laundry always done, you get the picture. My life is anything but, and the past 24 hours have been a case in point.  And so I am sharing today in the hopes that should you find yourself facing similar or even completely different struggles and circumstances in your own life that the Holy Spirit will be faithful to encourage you through my own failures and successes.  Just a fair warning, this post could be lengthy, so if you want to bail now, I won't be offended! :)

As some of you may know by now, after moving back to Texas last January I eventually came to the decision to return to school and get my degree in education.  This has been a life long dream, which for many, many years was fulfilled through the blessing of home schooling my children.  But then my life circumstances changed last January I came face to face with the reality that it was very likely that I would be financially supporting myself both now and in the future.  And while I am currently blessed to have a small steady income that meets my basic needs, were it not for the fact that I moved in with my mother to take care of her, the reality that I might have ended up homeless and on the streets is too real for me to even entertain.  I honestly always believed that I would be a wife and a mother and grow old with a man who loved his job, loved me and would take care of me, so in the absence of that I was forced to come face to face with my immediate lack of income and lack of recent work experience.  That was why, with the little time that I could spare, I returned to school last fall.

Much to even my surprise I had a WONDERFUL first semester, finishing a 12 hour course load with 3 A's, 1 B and a 3.75 GPA. Everything was going great, I registered for the spring semester shortly before Christmas and then, needing the mental break, decided not to look at anything related to school until after the new year.  That seemed fine at the time, but then last night all of that changed.  

I had been told by financial aid that everything was fine and my check for the spring semester would be deposited into my account approximately 10 days prior to the first day of class, so it should have happened late last week or early this week.  Last night, just to see if they had sent an email with an ETA of when I could expect it, what I found instead was another email that had been sent to me on December 19 (the last time I checked my email was December 17 for my final grades), which stated that due to "lack of academic achievement" I was no longer eligible for financial aid and that unless payment arrangements were made no later than January 4, I would be dropped for the spring semester.  Remember, this was Sunday night, January 7, and the next email did indeed inform me that as of January 5, I was no longer enrolled for the Spring semester.  In spite of my success in the fall semester, it seemed that back in 1993 when I first pursued this dream and was forced to withdraw due to my divorce, those "W's" on my transcript were coming back to haunt me. Recent success acknowledged, there was this little matter from twenty three years in your past, uh-hmm! All of this one week into 2017 when my word for the year is, what?  JOY!  You can imagine of course how upset I was by all of this, but in true and faithful fashion the Holy Spirit was so near to me in those moments and I heard him whisper almost immediately, "Joy, joy!".  At first to be honest, I would have like to have decked him, JOY? Really?  In a time when I should be contemplating retirement but instead I'm embarking on a career that is now going to be delayed at least a semester you want me to be JOYFUL????  I just wasn't feeling it.

To add to the comic humor, which by the way I am CONVINCED God has a great sense of humor and was completely delighting in the conundrum I had created for myself, because I was also set the very next morning, THIS VERY MORNING, Monday, to launch a book group featuring Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, which focuses of course on gratitude!  So not only was I supposed to be joyful, but now I also needed to be grateful?????  Since all of this transpired around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, I was so upset that it wasn't until 3:00 a.m. that I was finally able to get a couple of hours of sleep.  I was feeling maybe a l-i-t-t-l-e better at 6:00 a.m. when I opened up my computer screen to the devotional that I had decided do to coincide with the book, Psalms of Gratitude from She Reads Truth.  From the first, just reading the title of the first day's reading, "I am God", I could hear Him gently reminding me, "I am God, Kim, and you are, well . . . NOT!"  I had to smile because of this gentle reminder not to "get too big for my britches", as my daddy used to say.  I have a lot of plans, even plans that I know He has blessed, but He is still God and He is in control of the process, not me.

The days' reading was Psalm 100, so I opened my bible, and this is what I read, I'm sure you might be familiar with it.

Shout for JOY to the Lord!
Worship the Lord with gladness
come before Him with JOYFUL songs!

The Holy Spirit was so tender with me, but so direct in His prompting.  "No, things are not going as you had planned, they are not going YOUR way, and you can get mad and you can be angry for a little while, that's OK, but then we're going to move on. But . . . .not downcast, not dragging our feet, no. You're not only going to be OK with this, you are going to be JOYFUL! And not only JOYFUL, but you are going to shout if from the roof tops and sing it from the depths of your soul.  I could feel His presence with me, I knew that this was from Him and of Him, but being human I also knew it could only happen, only be evident in my life through Him, because all I was feeling at the moment was disappointed and discouraged. And then . . . .

Then came Chapter 1 of One Thousand Gifts.  The book I had known since November the Lord wanted me to revisit in the new year.  This was the first day, first chapter, and I read these words. 

"Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this No, God? No, God, we won’t take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn’t sign up for this and You really thought I’d go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can’t You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I’ll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing. Isn’t this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden? 

I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good. It’s the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us."

Hadn't I just entertained these thoughts less than four hours before reading this passage, hadn't I grumbled, shook my first toward heaven and thought that very thing, "Thanks for nothing", hadn't I doubted His goodness and love for me? Most assuredly I had.  But it gets even better.  A few pages later as Ann recounts a conversation she had with her brother in law who laid two babies to rest within a time frame of I think 18 months?  And this is what he said.

“Just that maybe … maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.” 

The words I choked out that dying, ending day, echo. Pierce. There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means. I don’t. "

Yes, how often I forget that I am only a character in this story, but never the author.  And being reminded of His goodness, and assured of His love for me, can I trust how this story plays out, do I trust where it will lead me, and when?  Absolutely! 

It's easy, we're human, to get caught up in the day to day and the to do's and have to's and want to's. Being a student again with weekly deadlines to juggle, and a mother with health related needs to navigate and a daughter who needs and deserves my time.  I had to have a system, a plan to keep it all from spiraling out of control. But somewhere along the way I forgot the most important thing, I was never in control.  At some point God had been left behind in my God-breathed dream.  "I" finished the semester with a 3.75 GPA, it isn't God whose being graded here, that was ME!  But it was Him who called me to it back last Spring, Him who fanned the flames of those first embers of long forgotten dreams.  He had made the way.  Had I forgotten?  And now, now when it appeared that the plan might be delayed, did I really fall once again for that same old lie, that He can't be trusted, that He doesn't have my best interest in mind, that He doesn't want what's best for me?  I had.  At some point I had taken up the pen once again and become the author of my own story, which is a scary thing because I have no idea what happens next or how this all ends.  What if the plan changes completely, what if I never finish my degree and become a teacher?  What then?  In light of those questions, was I willing to trust, and not only trust, but even to say, "That's OK!"  If he takes my dream, my one dream that I have carried since childhood, will I be grateful?  There's a reason for this delay, it's just the way the story is written, and it's true, I don't know what a different ending might hold, and that is why I have to place my trust in the the Author of my life.  

I don't always get it right, in fact, most of the time I get it wrong, but I can say with conviction that I am at peace with this delay, that I am thankful for it. For whatever it may or may not have diverted that was not His best for me. And because I know Him, and more importantly because He knows me, I am joyful!  Way back in November when the Holy Spirit first prompted me to re-read One Thousand Gifts, which then led me to finding the devotional, Psalms of Gratitude, God knew this day would come.  When I can look back and precisely remember those moments and then stand back and see how they prepared me for and carried through today, why would I ever doubt Him? 

Trust the story of your life my friends, and until then, TAKE JOY!

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, 
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

- Matthew 6:26-27

UPDATE: On Tuesday, January 10 Financial Aid called to let me know that they pushed my reinstatement through and my Financial Aid is available again and I am enrolled for the Spring semester!  I even got to take all but one of the original classes I had signed up for and I'm happy with the alternative for the fourth!  I honestly believe that this was a test of my JOY!  And I'm so happy that the Holy Spirit was so faithful to me during this time of trial!  I could honestly feel God looking down from heaven today!  I love it when for once in my life I get it right and respond to change as I know that I should!  To everyone who has prayed and encouraged me over the past 24 hours, thank you so much! Take joy, my friends, take joy! :)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Vintage Books on Birds

Continuing with my bird theme today, I haven't had any visitors to my little suet feeder yet, but as I mentioned yesterday it does take awhile for birds to find your feeder and they also might be cautious of the placement because there are not any trees or bushes nearby to offer them an escape.  But I'm hoping a few will eventually be brave and pay me a visit.  

It is in the 20's today and I have been delighting in watching a few snow flurries outside my window!  They are calling for a light dusting this afternoon and for Texas I'll take it, especially since the forecast for next week is into the 70's again! Texas weather, we try to keep everyone happy year round.

Today I wanted to share some links to some lovely resources that I used from time to time during our homeschooling days.  These are vintage books that are in the public domain (Google Books) that focus primarily on birds.  Even though they were written years ago, I still find the information relevant and the illustrations in a few of them are truly beautiful! First I'll offer some titles that are good resources for learning more about birds in general.

A Child's First Book About Birds by A Country Clergyman
Birds Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan
Bird Neighbors by Neltje Blanchan
How to Attract the Birds by Neltje Blanchan
What Bird is That? by Frank Michler Chapman
Color Key to North American Birds by Frank Michler Chapman

And then there is this lovely series by Madeline Leslie.

It has been a number of years since I've enjoyed this sweet series, but thery are perfect for sharing with your littles, although honestly, I love these sweet stories myself!

Before I go, I wanted to share this sweet postcard with you!  I thought it was just lovely and fitting for this post!  I hope that wherever you are today you are blessed, warm and filled!  

Until then, my friends, take joy! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Loving My Feathered Friends

While Kate was at an appointment this afternoon I took the opportunity to run into Lowes to purchase some bird seed and suet cakes. Unfortunately, I spent a little too much time looking at all the lovely feeders and envisioning a little bird sanctuary outside my bedroom window and so I had to check out rather quickly so I wouldn't be late picking Kate up, and. . . . . I went off and left the bag of bird seed there only making it home with the suet cakes!  Oh well, I've since called Lowes and they have it tucked away in customer service waiting for me.

I was able to go ahead an put up my window suet cake feeder.  We will have to see how this fares in this location and if it doesn't become a treat for the squirrels before the birds even discover it.  It did well in its location last year when we lived in Virginia, but it may take several placements before I find a safe spot. It takes awhile for birds to find your feeders when you first put them out, and there isn't much in the way of shrubbery in this location either which they tend to prefer so they can safely dart back and forth between the feeder and the bushes.  Thus the reason I want to plant holly bushes here in the spring!  If you notice just under the feeder on the ledge, I sliced some oranges and slathered them in peanut butter and sprinkled on the last that was left of the sunflower seeds.  There are actually four of them on the ledge there so I'm sure they'll draw some attention and be a treat for someone!

I also brought out my pole and bird feeder and went ahead and placed it, but without the seed it's not much to look at at the moment.  Something I had forgotten about and was happy to find in the same box is my little bird bath that I picked up at Goodwill last year, so I filled it up with some water and set it out.  It's going to dip into the 20's tonight so it will freeze overnight and I'll have to check on it throughout the day tomorrow.

I'm so glad I was able to bring out these few little things to  help care for the birds. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get it done today but since it's National Bird Day I was a little more motivated! I do wish I hadn't walked away and left my birdseed at Lowe's, but at least I was able to put a few things out.  Maybe they will begin to attract a few varieties and then as I can I will add other feeders and the holly bushes  and perhaps before long I will indeed have a little sanctuary. I've always dreamed of having a certified Wildlife Habitat in my garden but at about the time I first learned about it we moved three times in one year so that was a little hard to do.  I'm not sure how long I'll be here, but based upon Mom's needs it will be for at least the foreseeable future and that is fine.  Maybe I can slowly work toward that goal and even if it isn't certified, it will at least be pretty! 

Until then, my friends, take joy!

Today is National Bird Day

It's National Bird Day today, and since I have such a fondness for birds I wanted to take a few minutes to share a few of them with you, as well as some wonderful ideas and resources for caring for and attracting birds to your yard.  I have a bird feeder, which sadly has been packed away in the garage for the past year.  I need to get a hook to hang it from, but my plan is to put it outside my bedroom window.  I am not sure if I will get to that today as the temperatures are not expected to get much higher than the low 30's today, which is too bad because that is when the little birds need seed the most!  But a warm spell will be returning next week, so hopefully I will be able to get it out and functioning before the weather turns cold again.  And with that here are a few of my favorite birds!

One of my absolute favorite birds is the cardinal, and I love both the male and the female species, I think they are both equally beautiful.  I've had the privilege in my lifetime to witness these beautiful birds in a snowy winter setting, and they are simply breathtaking against the stark white backdrop.  There is an old saying that any time a cardinal appears in your yard that it is a visit from a loved one from heaven.  I'm not really one for superstition, but I don't really mind believing that perhaps a loved one is near when I see one!

Another favorite is the little Carolina Chickadee, pictured below.  This cute little black capped bird just makes me so happy.  They are quite small and when we lived in Virginia they were very active at our feeders.  I checked earlier this week at Feeder Watch to see what variety of birds I could attract here and much to my delight all of my favorites are common in this

area including the Carolina Chickadee! Other favorites include the Dark Eyed Junco, the Downy Woodpecker, the Pygmy Nuthatch, and the Tufted Titmouse.  New to me, and a few species I am excited to potentially be able to add to my life list are the Black Billed Magpie,  the Black Crested Titmouse, the Chestnut Backed Chickadee, the Common Redpoll, the Red Breasted Nuthatch which I would LOVE to see, and the Rufous Hummingbird.  I'll have to invest in a few more varieties of feeders to help to attract some of these, which is fine, but there are also a number of little feeders you can make yourself that will attract a good variety to your yard. 

This is a simple design, you just cut an orange in half and spread peanut butter on the exposed side and then dip it in bird seed and  attach cranberry skewers with toothpicks to the outside.  Simple, lovely and functional all at the same time.

One of my favorite resources for birding and making homemade bird feeders is Rebecca's Bird Garden Blog. She has some wonderful ideas for making natural bird feeders and she also has a lovely Easy shop where she sells unique handmade bird feeders and other items for the garden, like this little Irish Wren Bird Cottage, so sweet, and I do love that little strand of garden lights along the rail below!

I also have a Pinterest board where I've collected a number of ideas, many from her blog but from other sources as well, for crafting feeders for our feathered friends!

One of my favorite things to do over the years has been to keep a Life List of birds that I've seen, and you can find an explanation of how to keep one here, and here is a link where you can download and print an actual form to begin keeping track, if you're interested.

I think birds are one of God's loveliest creations and they bring so much joy and beauty to my life! I'm not sure if you care for them as I do, but hopefully I've sparked at least a little interest!  If you do have a favorite, or two, as well as some ideas for caring and feeding them please share!

Until then, my friends, take joy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yarn Along #3

We're still full into the Christmas spirit here until this Sunday when we will observe the Epiphany and then some time early next week the decorations will be put away.  I'm always a mixture of emotions, packing away the tree and all the lovely ornaments, most years I'm tempted to leave them up all year long just for the loveliness they bring to our home.  But I have a plan for the spot where the tree is standing now that I think will maintain a sense of loveliness just as well.  I confess, Autumn and Winter are my favorite seasons and for the most part I practically ignore Spring and Summer, at least in our home, and by that I mean that I like for things to feel warm and cozy all year round!

As for reading and stitching, after devoting a good amount of time to learning to knit last week I picked up my crochet hooks again over the weekend and set to work on a scarf in this lovely Christmasy colorscape.  I've had this yarn for over a year and just now decided on a plan for it.  Since it includes all the colors I love, red and green, soft pink and even a touch of amethyst, I plan to put it to use through the colder months of Winter which are still ahead (even in Texas!).

Liturgy of the Ordinary was a gift from a friend who knows my love for the liturgy.  I've just begun to read it and I am absolutely loving it.  I plan to write a review here very soon.  I stopped by Barnes & Noble late yesterday afternoon after dropping my mom off at the hospital.  She was experiencing some rather vague but obvious signs of a heart attack but thankfully all the tests came back negative.  However as a precaution they did decide to keep her overnight for observation.  I'm hoping she will be back home and feeling better soon.  To cheer myself I picked up the January edition of County Living (British Edition).  This is one my little allowances, as I call them, just small purchases that I allow myself from time to time and this magazine is quite possibly my absolute favorite!

If you'd like to participate in the Yarn Along, just follow this link!

Until then, take joy, my friends!

Draw hearthside . . .

"And now let us welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been!"

- Anna Maria Rilke

January, the month of new beginnings and cherished memories, beckons. Come, let winter weave her wondrous spell; cold, crisp, woolen muffler days, long dark evenings of savory suppers, lively conversations, or solitary joys.  Outside the temperature drops as the snow falls softly. All of nature is at peace.  We should be, too. Draw hearthside. This is the month to dream, to look forward to the year ahead and to journey within.

- Sarah Ban Breathnach
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Attending to the Days

Yesterday was the first day in a couple of weeks that things fell back into a bit of a routine.  For the past two weeks I've briefly skimmed over the mail just in case it was something that needed my immediate attention, but for the most part none of it was anything that couldn't wait and so I tossed it into my pending file and forgot about it.  But yesterday the lovely leisure of Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year's came to a close and it was time to begin working on organizing a few things and resuming our days.

One thing I've always tried to do is to bring a bit of loveliness to every task and yesterday was no exception.  That wasn't hard since I already had everything I needed, my planners, a few post its and pads, some little fruit bowls that I picked up recently for organizing bits and baubles, some washi tape in lovely colors and my home keeping binder which I make myself every year.  I am particularly loving this year's layout.  Switching from Word to Pages and figuring out graphics was a little tricky, but I think I've finally got the hang of it and I'm so happy with the way it turned out.  You can see a better copy of my January calendar in this post, and there's even a link to download a copy if your interested.  Here's a little close up in the picture on the right, as well.

I actually have three planners, all which are featured in this picture.  My home keeping binder is my biggest planner and I keep it out and refer to it daily.  This is where I keep track of seasonal and liturgical celebrations and fun little ways to make every day special.  By the way, today is National Chocolate Covered Cherry day and I just happen to have a box that my mom was given as a gift, but since she doesn't care for them she gave it to me.  I'll have to treat myself to few later today!  I have daily sheets for each day of the week, which you can see in the picture on the left below.  I was working on filling all of these in when I took this picture, but pleasantly enough the first week of 2017 appears to be a little quieter than usual, for the moment, anyway! I'm always tweaking and editing these forms, but this is what I've come up with for now.  I'll play around with for a few weeks to make sure it works well for me.  In the past I've added lots of pretty embellishments to the daily pages, and I rather prefer that, but that takes a lot of time to develop and tweak and uses a lot more ink to print, and since these pages are printed weekly I decided to keep the dailies plain and simple this year. This is also where I keep up with daily home keeping tasks, I note any appointments we have coming up, which is the only thing that is duplicated across all three planners.  There's nothing like three reminders to keep you on top of things!  My homekeeping planner is also where I make notes about projects I'd like to do.  My mom's front yard needs some work, especially the flower beds and I was thinking of planting some holly bushes just outside my bedroom window.  And so I did a little research and printed out an article about holly bushes.  Did you know that there is a male and female species and that only the female bushes produce berries?  But!  Unless you buy the more expensive variety that produces berries without the need of male, you need to plant both.  Isn't that interesting! I tucked that article behind the page where I had made a note to look into planting some in the spring and at the end of the month I'll forward that note to around March or April and move the article there.  This is just one example of how I organize my thoughts and ideas.

My second planner is a Lett's Torino Week to Week planner in Red.  I read about this planner in a post on another friend's Facebook page and since I was looking for a new planner I decided to give it a try.  I don't know if you are familiar with Swagbacks, but I spend some time here and there doing tasks and completing surveys so that I can earn some gift cards.  Once my classes were done for the semester I took a couple of days and spent some time in earnest and before I knew it had enough to get myself a $25.00 Amazon gift card which was just enough to purchase this planner and a small travel journal for my purse, a small Moleskine planner in a lovely shade of green which I purchased used but in "Like New" condition for a bit cheaper than the standard price.  I use the Tornio planner primarily for school, but I still list other appointments here as well so that I can make sure that things don't interfere with my school work, especially on days when I have tests.  And then my small Moleskin planner is the one that I carry with me at all times.  Since it's actually a travel journal there is lots of room for writing.  I carry over appointments into this planner as well, but from there it's a toss up as to what else gets added.  For instance, this coming Thursday is Bird Day, and since I LOVE birds I've decided to try to set my bird feeder back up outside my window.  It's been packed away since we moved here last year and I miss my little feathered friends.   Since I don't want to forget I made a note in my homekeeping binder to find my feeder and the hanging pole in the garage tomorrow and then in my Moleskin planner I've written a reminder to pick up some inexpensive bird seed while I'm out on Thursday.  I also have a dear friend who has a birthday coming up soon which is noted on the calendar in my homekeeping binder, but in my Moleskin planner I've made a note to pick up a birthday card. Do you see how these two planners especially work well together,? at least it does for me.  I suppose I could keep track of all of it in one place, but carrying around a big binder, which I tried one year, just isn't really practical. Also, I don't know about you, but I don't have the best memory so having reminders written down in more than one place helps to stay on top of things!

One of the things I have in my home keeping binder the I'm particularly loving this year are these delightful little note pads that I found in the dollar section at Target just before Christmas.  They add a lovely splash of color to my binder and I keep them along with some post it notes tucked away in the pockets in the front of the binder.  I'm a bit OCD when it comes to color coordinating, but as I've often said, if you must be responsible at least make it pretty!

Well, this post is getting rather long so I'll wrap it up for now!  I'm always interested in how other people organize and manage their lives and I've seen several things my friends have posted recently on their blogs and Facebook showcasing their planners and how they use them and I thought I'd jump in the bandwagon and join the fun!  I'd love to hear what tools and resources you use as well, so feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!  I'd love to here for you!

Until then, take joy, my friends!