To Do Lists

Either you are or you aren’t. I am. I am an unapologetic list maker. So much so in fact that I often wonder how non-list makers can even function. I make lists for everything. Lists of things I need to buy, lists of places I want to go, lists of goals that I have, lists of steps to take in order to accomplish said goals, lists of people to call, lists of things to do. Lists. Lists. Lists.

photo(2)

I have been a list maker ever since I can remember. As a teenager I received a book as a gift entitled, The Book of Lists for Teens. It was a book composed entirely of lists covering a wide range of topics from how to be successful in school, to ways to eat an Oreo. I loved that book! As I got older, I started making lists to aid me in the big decisions of life. Pros and cons list for various career paths, lists of things I was looking for in a future husband, etc.

When it comes to “to-do” lists, I find great satisfaction in being able to cross off things that I have completed. I confess. There are times when I have written down a task that I have already completed just to experience the pleasure of crossing it off the list. Pretty bad right?

As a teacher, a much anticipated time of year has finally begun. Summer vacation started yesterday! Yesterday. Already I am thinking of the the lists of things I need to do to prepare for next school year. Every summer I create a massive list on the white board in my classroom that I continue to add to over time. It’s nice.

Lists help keep me focused and organized. As I had lists playing through my mind today, just waiting to be transferred to paper, I began to think of some spiritual applications.

  1. Making appointments with God. Some people may think it wrong to write “spend time with God” on a to-do list. This can make our time with God just another thing to check off our list. While I do believe that this could be a danger, I am of the opinion that for us list makers, scheduling time with God can be very helpful. I would not miss a doctor’s appointment, an appointment to meet up with a friend for lunch, or a date with my husband. All too often it is easy to forget to keep my most important appointment of the day. My appointment with God. For any of the other things on the list to matter, this essential item must be done!
  2. The Negative Side. It is hard to admit that there is a negative side to list making when there are just so many positives, but in truth, there are a couple of drawbacks to being a list maker. There can be a sense of discouragement when we end the day unable to check all the boxes and a sense of disappointment when all of our dreams and plans don’t pan out. I am learning that there is also the danger of being consumed by the need for lists and to accomplish the things on the list. We can get so busy trying to cross off each of the things on OUR list that we miss opportunities that God has for us, unplanned opportunities to witness or to receive a special blessing.

I will always be a list maker, but with God’s help I will also be flexible enough to see the other opportunities that He has for me. I will have the courage to toss the list, when necessary, in order to follow a different plan that God may have for me, and before I start checking things off my list, I will not miss that most important appointment of the day.

Are you a list maker? What lessons have you learned?

 

Puppy Tales

We recently decided to add a puppy to our family. When he came to live with us a few short months ago, he looked like this:IMG_7006Adorable right! I mean, how could anyone resist this little bundle off cuteness? When my husband first walked in the door with this little guy in his arms, it truly was love at first sight. Instantly, I fell in love with this little creature, partly because he was so cute, but mainly because he was ours.

Time has passed and Rudy has become an energetic, mischievous, and wild pre-teen with a serious attitude! Do I love him any less? Certainly not.

IMG_7807

“I know you want me to stay on my mat. Does one foot count?”

This morning, as we went for our morning walk, I was pondering the many lessons that this dog has taught me. There are so many. My first thought was how for Rudy, it is all about the journey. The destination is irrelevant. Why should we be in a hurry? Rudy loves to explore the woods. He sniffs every log, splashes in every puddle, wades through every bit of mud, chases every bird and wind-blown leaf, and runs like he is being chased, just because he can. What a lesson this is for busy people like us. I want to find joy in the little things and relish every moment of this journey.

IMG_7925

“I came away from my adventures to see you. What do you mean you don’t want to hug me?”

Rudy sees every person and every creature as a friend. When he first catches sight of a potential new friend, his little tail starts going so fast that his whole backside shakes. He is not picky about who he will be friends with. Elderly person in the nursing home, no problem. Rambunctious child, no problem. Mentally disabled, no problem. Dressed oddly, no problem. Frightened cat, no problem. Dog 6x his size, no problem. I am learning that I should express more enthusiasm when greeting loved ones (okay, so maybe tone it down a notch and not shake my backside…) and that I should go out of my way to get to know the potential friends in my world.

Today we had a big scare. I was walking with Rudy out in the woods and trying to navigate around a very large puddle when he caught wind of something and headed off into the woods. When this has happened before, he has come back fairly quickly as he doesn’t seem to like to get too far away, but this time was different. I called and called, but he was out of sight. I called my husband and we searched for our missing dog for three hours, a short eternity. I yelled for him over and over and over. I cried and sobbed, afraid that I may never see him again. Between the desperate shouts and the tears, I prayed. At last, I didn’t know where to look anymore. We had searched the woods and driven down the nearby roads. I sat in my car, wondering what to do next when I received a call from a neighbor. A new friend. When I arrived to pick up my lost pup, they revealed to me that they had returned home to find Rudy playing with their dog in the yard. Rudy’s new friend was a 16 year old, deaf husky. They were having a blast. To Rudy, it was all just one, grand adventure. He was happily unaware of the danger he could have been in.

IMG_7922

Tonight I am grateful to have my puppy back. He may drive me crazy, get into trouble, and be a giant pain, but I love him. He is mine. What a great reminder of how God feels about me. When He first saw me, he loved me. He thought, “Wow! She is mine.” No matter what messes I get myself into, He is the one that is seeking me out, calling for me to come back to Him. No matter how far I stray, he is always happy to see me when I finally come home.

Christmas Spirit

Nothing screams Christmas like bare trees, mud, and dead, brown grass.

Seriously though. Is it just me or is it hard to imagine that Christmas is almost here when there is no snow on the ground? I live in Maine for goodness sake!

REFLECTIONS As I was cleaning my house today and thinking about how I should start decorating for Christmas, I was thinking about why I’m not really feeling in the “Christmas Spirit”. I want to FEEL like Christmas is coming because I KNOW that it is. At school, we have a countdown ’til Christmas on the board. Every day the number gets smaller, and every day I wonder: when will it feel like Christmas?

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

(Reasons I believe that I am lacking Christmas Spirit)

#1. I have been irritated that Christmas has taken over Thanksgiving. I LOVE Thanksgiving. I have considered it a favorite holiday since I was a child.You can’t go shopping in November (almost October!) without seeing and hearing Christmas everywhere.

#2. (Closely related to point number one…) I can’t help but think that Christmas has lost its meaning and has just become a major push for consumerism. The attitude of the masses seems to be “I want, I want, I want…Give me, give me, give me!” Giving and receiving gifts can be a joy and a blessing, but I believe it can also be a curse. How much more STUFF do we need?!

#3. No snow. Seems like a small thing, but it’s real!

REFOCUS I don’t want to come across as being a scrooge, because I am not. I love Christmas, I really do! I love the decorations and the cookies, the family get-togethers, and the traditions. As I was looking through a box of Christmas goodies, I found my favorite, most treasured decoration.

photo

I bought this little, hand-sculpted nativity when I was on a mission trip in Guatemala. It is so simple and so perfect.THIS is what Christmas is about. It shouldn’t matter that there is no snow on the ground or that the rest of the world has changed Christmas to take the focus off of Jesus. I can choose to celebrate Jesus’ birth, the most extraordinary gift, in a way that honors Him. I can be grateful for the Gift, even when I don’t FEEL like I have much in the way of Christmas spirit. I should not base my preparations or my celebrations on the way I feel, rather I should base my actions on how I know I can use this special time of year to help others turn their attention to Jesus and the sacrifice He made. And maybe, just maybe, as I do that, I will find the feelings of Christmas growing inside myself. So here is to finding, and spreading, some Christmas spirit.

 

Seek First

IMG_6050 (2)

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:28-34

Rather than worry, we are to seek God first.

THE SETTING: These verses made me think about a story that takes place in 2nd Kings 6-7. I encourage you to read it for yourself. The events of this story took place when Elisha was a prophet in Israel. It seems that Israel always had enemies. One of these was Syria. The king of Syria was warring in Israel, but he was having some serious problems. Every time he went to a new site to wait for Israel to show up so that he could ambush them, they wouldn’t ever show up because, it seemed, they were being warned by someone. The Syrian king was upset and was certain that someone in his own army must be giving information to the enemy. His servant told him that Israel was actually being warned by Elisha. Naturally, the king of Syria made it his mission to eliminate this man who was ruining his plans. He tracked Elisha down and found that he was staying in a city called Dotham. He sent his army of soldiers and chariots to surround the city.

A REASON TO WORRY Elisha’s servant woke up early in the morning. He was probably just expecting another ordinary day. Isn’t that how it is for us? On the days where our lives are changed forever, we often aren’t expecting anything extraordinary. The servant looked out the window and saw the surrounding army. He ran to Elisha to warn him. He came to Elisha and said, “What should we do?” Elisha answered in verse 16 and said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Totally confident. Totally at peace. Totally not worried.

PERSPECTIVES It is interesting to me that both Elisha and the servant were looking out the same window, but both saw something different. Both people had a different perspective. Elisha was a man who had woken up that morning and, upon looking out the window, was not worried about what he saw because he had made a habit of continually seeking God first.

BLESSINGS FOR SEEKING GOD FIRST

#1: One blessing Elisha received from seeking God first was peace. Where another man saw a reason to panic, Elisha saw a reason to praise. Wanting his servant to experience the same peace, he said a prayer, asking God to open his servant’s eyes. Immediately his eyes were opened and he was able to see the vast, mighty army of God standing ready. All too often I am like Elisha’s servant. It is easy to become discouraged, frightened, or worried when I see Satan at work in my life or in the lives of those around me. If I were to seek God first, I would see that while Satan is powerful, God is much more powerful. And He is on MY side! If we could see the battle being waged all around us between the powers of light and the powers of darkness, what would we think? What an awesome thing that this servant was allowed to experience as a result of Elisha’s prayer.

#2: The second blessing Elisha receives is power. God answers Elisha’s first prayer immediately and when he prays a second time, asking God to blind the Syrian army, God does it. There is truly power in prayer!

#3: God gives Elisha courage. He goes right out to the Syrian king and has a conversation with him. Rather than cower in the presence of his enemy, he shows courage and confidence. Elisha ends up leading the king and the rest of the Syrian army into Samaria where they are put into a vulnerable position. (to say the least!)

#4: The final blessing God gives Elisha is grace. Elisha is able to show grace to his enemies and rather than having them slaughtered, he makes sure they are fed and then sent home. We cannot extend grace towards others unless we have first accepted the grace of God.

Elisha made a habit of seeking God first and was greatly blessed because of it. Not only was he blessed, but he was able to share those blessings with those around him.

Why waste your time worrying? Imagine all that you are missing out on.

Creamy Carrot and Zucchini Soup

carrotzuchsoupMY PROBLEM: I love to garden and I enjoy storing up food for our long, New England winters, but I have a bit of a problem. I seem to have a hard time using up what I have canned and frozen. It is not because I store too much, it is because I use it so sparingly, not wanting to run out! I am getting better, but have still not found that perfect balance of using just the right amount. This week, I was taking stock of what goods I had left and realized that I needed to make a conscience effort to use up more of my stored goods.

THE PLANT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: As anyone who has grown zucchini can attest to, there always seems to be an abundance of that particular vegetable! Everyone seems to have too much, and is all too eager to share this blessing. In fact I heard a joke last summer that is funny, probably only because it is partially true.

“Why do you lock your car when you go in to church?” “Because if you don’t, it will be full of zucchini when you come out!”

I decided last summer that I should find a way to preserve the stuff. A friend of mine canned some with some tomatoes and other veggies, creating a delicious sauce to serve over rice. I didn’t have more tomatoes, so decided not to go the canning route. Honestly, I have a love-hate relationship with the stuff. I really don’t like it when it is overcooked, mushy and virtually tasteless! One of my favorite things to do with zucchini is to make Lemon Zucchini Bread with it. So, I shredded a bunch up and froze it as an experiment. Today I realized that I hadn’t used one bag! (Thankfully, I didn’t fill too many…)

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION: Today we had a bit of snow falling all day. (what’s new?!) I thought the dreary day called for a good pot of soup. Sunday is the day I generally go grocery shopping, so my cupboards were starting to look a little bare and I didn’t feel like venturing out into the snow. So, taking into account what I had on hand, I set about the task of creating something I hadn’t tried before. The result was this tasty soup!

Saute in saucepan:

  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1/4 C. Water

While onions are sauteing, peel and dice:

  • 2 lbs. Carrots

Add Carrots to pan along with

  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – Crushed

Cook on low for a few minutes while you blend the following:

  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • 1/2 C. Cashews

Add liquid to vegetables. Bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer until carrots are tender. Add:

  • 3-4 C. Shredded Zucchini

Cook for 2 minutes and serve. Delicious!

*Bonus* The zucchini still tasted fresh and held its bright green color.🙂

Citrus Cranbery Muffins

photo-16This delicious recipe, from my mom’s kitchen, is one of my favorite muffins. My mom has a problem, (which I seem to have inherited…) and that is cooking large quantities of food, even when cooking for small groups of people. I say this as a warning, as this recipe yields a lot of muffins! (about 2 dozen) Being made with wholesome ingredients and no dairy, you will want to eat them within a few days, so adjust as necessary!

COMBINE DRY INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 C. Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 C. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 2 C. Dried or Fresh Cranberries

MIX WET INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 C. Oil
  • 1/2 C. Honey
  • 2 1/2 C. Water
  • 1 Tbsp. Orange Extract
  • 2 tsp. Lemon Extract
  • (I also like to add some lemon zest if I have some lemons on hand…)

COMBINE and pour into greased muffin tins. Bake @ 350 for 25 minutes or until the tops are springy.

ENJOY with a nice bowl of homemade applesauce!

Fitness Challenge: Day 4

xcountryski

Pathfinders: Besides being a teacher, I am a Pathfinder director at my church. For those of you who don’t know what Pathfinders is, the closest thing I can compare it to is boy/girl scouts. Google it! The purpose of Pathfinders is to train young people to be leaders and workers for God. It is an organization designed to teach students practical and outdoor skills. It is designed to help young people build strong, Christ-like characters, learn how to share their faith, and be responsible citizens on this earth while preparing for Jesus’ soon coming. In Pathfinders we strive to make friends, have fun, learn new things and most importantly, build a lasting relationship with our Savior.

Honors: In Pathfinders, students work to earn “honors” from many different categories. When they complete an honor, the kids each receive a badge to sew onto their uniforms. The honors we have worked on so far this year are: Basic Rescue, Pizza Making, Camp Craft, String Art, and Drawing. At our last meeting we started the Physical Fitness Honor.

The Challenge I decided to take the challenge and complete the honor with my kids. One of the requirements is keeping an exercise log for 3 months, exercising at least 4 times/week for at least 20 min/day. In my busy schedule, I am embarrassed to admit, that I struggle to fit in that much exercise…

Day 4: Today is day 4. On day 1, I exercised with the kids doing some circuit training and playing a game I call 3-2-1. A great one for getting your heart rate up, but at the same time giving you a break every now and then! On day 2, I was cleaning the house and running errands all day so I guess I can’t count that as being aerobic… so day 2 was a “rest” day. Day 3 I went snowshoeing out in the woods behind my house. And today, day 4, I went cross country skiing. It was a beautiful day to be out. It was a balmy 35 degrees, felt like Spring! The sun was shining, the snow was melting and the sap was almost beginning to run. Exercising out in nature, while not always possible, is definitely the best. Not only are you helping your body stay physically healthy, but spiritually healthy as well. I love spending time in God’s great outdoors!

JOIN THE CHALLENGE!

If you do,  comment with the creative ways that you are exercising this week!

DIY

photo-14

OUR OWN HOME My husband and I recently bought our own home. OK, so I guess technically the bank owns it, but that is another topic all together! It is still an exciting step. We have been working on various projects in our “spare time”. Our most recent project was painting the kitchen.

I LOVE COLORS I have never liked white walls… so sterile and boring. Sorry if you are partial to white! I know that white(s) can be very pretty and elegant, it’s just not my style. That being said, I do find myself trying to play it safe, but not too safe. I decided to make a bold choice and go for a bright color. The kitchen was already a nice, light green, but I wanted something different and something that would match my other color choices better.

TEAL: I chose a very beautiful, very bright, color for the kitchen/dining room that I felt would compliment the very light, creamy yellow in the rest of my open concept living space. (Now I sound like I know all about DIY and real estate…like the people on HGTV!) Okay, so I am a novice, but I do enjoy it!

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: When I put the first bit of paint on, I worried that I had made a mistake. I continued to stay positive and kept painting, realizing that the worst that could happen would be having to paint over it. It is finished now and I LOVE IT!!

ACCENTS: Now that it is painted, I needed to buy some fabric for curtains! I went shopping yesterday and found the lovely fabric pictured above. I will be using the cream colored one for curtains, using the teal as an accent and the brown with teal flowers will be for a tablecloth. Now I just have to sew them all! It may be awhile, but I’m excited to get started.

SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: As I was thinking about the idea of DIY, something that seems to be some sort of buzzword (a buzz-accronym?!) I realized that there is an object lesson to be learned. So many people are into all sorts of DIY projects, from refinishing dressers to remodeling the house. Everyone likes to be able to do things on their own. All too often, people have the same attitude about salvation. In Bible class this week we were talking about the importance of keeping God’s law, but recognizing that being “good” is not what saves us. Only through God’s grace can we have eternal life. We do good things and keep the law out of gratitude for the gift that has already been given to us. We need to learn to depend less on self and more on God.

I found a cute skit on YouTube that I thought gave a good picture of this good works vs. grace concept. Check it out!

My Shadow Is Always With Me

shadow

WATCHING MY SHADOW As I skied through the snow yesterday, I couldn’t help but watch my shadow. It was a very sunny day, something we haven’t seen in these parts for far too long! I was mesmerized, watching my shadow move in perfect step with me. It was peaceful, just my shadow and I. Sometimes, I would round a corner and lose track of it. Looking around, I would find it slightly behind me, but still there. I began to think about what kind of spiritual lesson I could get from this experience. Today, it came to me while I was reading and meditating on Isaiah chapter 43.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43: 2b-3

GOD’S ALWAYS THERE  No matter what circumstances we are going through in our lives, God is right beside us. Just like our shadow, we cannot escape his presence. Even when we can’t see Him, He is there. This is so encouraging! In a world full of uncertainties, we can always count on Him being there. He didn’t say that we wouldn’t have to pass through the waters or go through the fire, but He did promise to be there with us and to protect us. What a promise!

HE LOVES ME! So why would God care about little ol’ me? Why would he choose to walk beside me? As I read on, I found my answer. Hours later, these words are still ringing in my ears and causing me to be in awe! Although I’ve read the passage before, and many others like it, today it seemed like I was reading it for the first time!

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4

WOW! Feeling amazed, loved, and truly cherished, I read on. I had found the gem meant for me today. And then, I was struck by these words a few verses later.

“Remember not the former things, or consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing, how it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

tracksinsnow

LOOKING BACK When we are going through life, especially the trying circumstances, it is easy to get focused on the things that have been. Always looking back instead of forward. This verse reminded me that God has a plan for the future. Every time we come to a crossroads in life and are forced to face a challenge, He wants something new and better for us. Even though the way ahead seems difficult and even impossible, God will make a way. When we stop looking behind, and start looking ahead, who knows what beautiful things we will see!

winterview

What lessons have you been learning in nature lately? Please share.🙂

Smiling at the Small Things

ONLY IN MAINE I was going to title this post, “Only in Maine”. After thinking about the snow that has been dumped all across the Northeast during the last couple of weeks, I decided that this title may not be completely accurate.

We love snow here in Maine, at least some of us do, but there comes a point when everyone is looking forward to Spring! What I saw today when I took a trip to the bank made me realize how much I like the snow and appreciate living here in Maine. (Even when I am freezing cold and daydreaming of tulips and crocuses…)

SnowmobileHawaii

WHY USE A CAR WHEN YOU CAN RIDE A SNOWMOBILE? When I walked out of the bank and saw that someone had chosen alternative transportation to get to the bank this morning, it made me smile. As I looked closer, I smiled even more, chuckling a little to myself. Can you identify the license plate? Let me help you out.

hawaiian-license-plate-template-hi

HOW FUNNY! What a funny thing, to have a snowmobile registered in Hawaii! Sometimes it’s the little things in life that put a smile on my face. What have you smiled at lately?