Five Minute Friday: Done

It’s been a long week.  I’m tired. It’s difficult to string words together.

I’m grateful, though, that hard work this week resulted in hitting a business goal I’ve been working on for two and half months.

I have trouble with follow through.  I have trouble finishing.  That’s why it feels so good to be done.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday Community.  This week’s five minute free write is on the word prompt done.

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It feels good to accomplish a difficult goal.

To have worked hard and really pushed yourself and reached the peak.

Because it’s easier to give up. To not follow through. To give valid excuses for not winning.

It’s hard to stay the course. To press on toward the goal.

At least, for me it is.

That’s why it feels good to be done. To know you’ve worked through the messy middle and planted that flag.

Don’t lose heart.

You’ve got this.

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5 Gifts to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually

The day before my youngest turned 18 I found out I was going to be a grandma.

It seemed fitting.

The end of an era. The beginning of an era.

My son and daughter-in-law are having a girl.

My grand-daughter is going to need some presents from her grandparents. Every Christmas and birthday for the next 18 years. That’s thirty-six special occasions. What if end up with 4 grandkids or ten?

That’s 360 gift giving opportunities.

What can I give her that’s meaningful? That will encourage her spiritual life? There’s a lot of negative influences on kids today.

A customer at the bookstore today told me her mother passed away. Her mother was a regular customer at the store. She bought a Seaside Bible with a zipper for each grandchild when they turned 7. Now that she was gone, her daughter was carrying on the tradition for the grandchildren who were turning 7.

I like that.

I like that it has meaning, that everyone knows and that the tradition continues after Grandma’s gone.

I like that she had an age picked out.

I like that they all got the same thing.

There’s something comforting about traditions.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

I want my grandkids to know God and love Him.

I will be giving books. That’s what I do.

Which ones will I give?

I don’t know for sure, but right now here’s my top picks for each age group:

Ages 0-4

Buy now from Amazon

The Beginner’s Bible

The Beginner’s Bible has become a classic. It’s simple. It’s great for reading aloud, which of course, is the only option at this age.  It stays faithful to the biblical text.

Ages 4-8

Buy now from Amazon

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible with one caveat. Okay, maybe two.

First of all, I don’t care for the illustrations, but that’s a personal preference.

Secondly, and more importantly, I feel the author has taken some artistic liberties that have resulted in some minor inaccuracies in the stories compared to the Bible.

In spite of that, I feel this book accomplishes something I’ve never seen before in a Bible storybook. Instead of recounting disjointed, individual stories from the Bible, it weaves the big themes of the Bible into the individual accounts.

The plan of salvation and the incarnation of Jesus is highlighted and put into simple language for children.

Tying together a unifying theme of the Bible is huge.

If children can grasp these critical concepts, it’s a gigantic leap forward in their spiritual growth and understanding. Effective communication of these truths is priceless.

Ages 6-9

NIRV Adventure Bible

The New International Readers Version is written at a third grade reading level. It uses an easier vocabulary.

I tell customers that if they are planning to memorize verses from it or follow along in church with the pastor, they should be aware that it won’t line up exactly with the NIV.

But, for beginning or struggling readers, this version could be helpful.  Alongside the entire text of the Bible are explanations and commentary to help kids understand the Bible.

Ages 9-12

Buy now from Amazon

Buy now from Amazon

The NIV Adventure Bible

This Bible contains the entire text of the New International Version Bible.  It includes explanations and commentary geared toward 9 to 12 year olds.

The snap closure protects pages and comes in a boys edition and a girl’s edition.

Ages 13 and up

Buy now from Amazon

Buy now from Amazon

Jesus Calling  by Sarah Young

Jesus Calling is a daily devotional written from the perspective of Jesus talking to you.

There is a teen edition of Jesus Calling, but I give teens the original version which they can go through year after year.

I wrote about the secret of the success of Jesus Calling here.

So, those are my top picks for helping kids grow spiritually.

Which resources would you recommend?

Five Minute Friday: Vacation Envy

I’ve been MIA from Five Minute Friday due to our youngest son’s high school graduation, our middle son’s wedding an a half century celebration for my husband.

Good stress.

This week’s word prompt is a good reminder to me to be thankful.  Gratitude is a habit that can be developed and can be lost.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community to write on the word prompt vacation.

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Boatloads of articles have been written on the impact of social media on our society.

There’s nothing like scrolling through exotic vacation pictures to stir up feelings of envy.

And, yet, that’s not the intent.  Friends aren’t trying to make you envious.  They’re just sharing the joy.

Which brings me to the struggle of contentment.  Is it okay that someone else has something that you don’t?  Can you still be content with your life?  Or do you want someone else’s?  Can you see the blessings you have without comparing them to others?

Can you develop a attitude of gratitude that allows you to rejoice with those who are joyful?  Even if it isn’t you?

It’s a mindset that can be groomed, with supernatural help.

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Three Things I’ve Learned, Spring 2018

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, just do one thing.

That’s all you can do well, anyway. Just focus on that one thing. Get it done. Do it well. Move on to the next one thing.

Find a dress for the wedding.

Design the grad party invitations.

Clean out under the sink.

It sounds simple but it’s not.

Overwhelm can paralyze me.

It’s hard to keep going with the next one thing.

I know I can do harder things in the morning. I know I have more will power then. I know I have less decision fatigue.

For me, it’s important to schedule the harder things in the morning. Whatever takes less will power I can do in the afternoon and evening.

At some point, I also have to decide that I’m done for the day. That it’s okay to read a book or watch a show, without guilt. There’s a continual pressure to get more done. It’s hard to let go.

It’s easy to panic. It’s hard to trust.

When you boss yourself, you are the boss and the employee. Sometimes it’s easier to call out directives if you’re not the one who needs to follow through. Make the tough decisions, let someone else carry it out. But, when you boss yourself, you have to give the tough order and you have to implement it.

I am still trying to find my voice.

It’s been a long process.

I like the image of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.  So far, most of it has fallen to the floor.

That’s okay.  I’m (mostly) enjoying the process.

I’ve tried my hand at fiction.

I like the idea of telling parables.

I’m trying to follow the curiosity.

I try to be disciplined, whether I’m feeling inspired or not.

It’s easy to get discouraged by the numbers.

So many online gurus promise shortcuts.  They want sell you on an easier path to success than the one they traveled.  I truly believe you can stand on others’ shoulders, learn from others’ mistakes, benefit from a proven path.

What I don’t believe is that you can short circuit the struggle.

I think the discipline and resolve gained from failures and false starts is what builds the muscle needed for success.

It would be like cutting a butterfly out of his chrysalis.  He needs the struggle of breaking free to strengthen his wings to soar.

If anything short circuits that struggle, the butterfly is left weak and damaged, not ready for flight.

It took Jeanne Birdsall 20 years to write the Penderwicks series.

I am so in love with the Penderwick kids.  I love the way Jeanne Birdsall is able to capture the wonder and magic of childhood.

After listening to this interview with Sarah Mackenzie, I know why.  She’s still in touch with the magic and wonder of her own childhood.

What a gift.

She also spends a lot of time getting to know her characters before she can write a compelling novel.

Exceptional work takes exceptional work.  Twenty years worth.

What an inspiration.

After a couple of false starts, I’ve re-launched my email list.

Sign up in the sidebar of my home page to get weekly round ups and behind the scenes news as well as occasional deals that I love.

What have you learned this Spring?

Three Things I’ve Learned Winter 2018

Five Minute Friday: Secret

Happy Friday!

Hope your week was fantastic and your weekend is even better.

Countdown at our house to the last day of school.  Our youngest graduates from high school next month, so we’re ending an era.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community.  This week’s five minute writing prompt is secret.

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I can’t remember where I read recently that everyone has three lives:  their public life, their private life and their secret life.

Naturally, it’s easy to think about the secret life being where we harbor the dark secret sins of the heart and mind.

But, it’s also where the unknown victories are won.  Where the resolve begins.  Where the convictions are.

It’s the surrender that no one knows about.  The prying loose of those clenched fingers and giving up control.

It’s the peace that passes understanding, deep in the soul.

It’s the confirmation that we are not alone:  that God is with us and He has a plan.

Not all secrets are dark.  Some are wonderful.

But, every one of them affects our public and private life.  They give us the spring in our step, the whistle on our lips or the scowl on our brow and down turned eyes.

Even if no one knows, we know. And it permeates everything.

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P.S.  New on the blog:  What I’m Reading, May 2018, seven book reviews of last month’s books.

What I’m Reading, May 2018

Spring is finally here, welcome but long in coming.

This has been a great month for reading.

Linking up my May reviews at Modern Mrs Darcy this month.

On to the books!

Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan

Buy now from Amazon

” ‘I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.’

At just under five feet tall, Virginia Prodan was no match for the towering 6′ 10″ gun-wielding assassin the Romanian government sent to her office to take her life. It was not the first time her life had been threatened–nor would it be the last.

As a young attorney under Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal communist regime, Virginia had spent her entire life searching for the truth. When she finally found it in the pages of the most forbidden book in all of Romania, Virginia accepted the divine call to defend fellow followers of Christ against unjust persecution in an otherwise ungodly land.

For this act of treason, she was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, placed under house arrest, and came within seconds of being executed under the orders of Ceausescu himself. How Virginia not only managed to elude her enemies time and again, but how she also helped expose the appalling secret that would ultimately lead to the demise of Ceausescu’s evil empire is one of the most extraordinary stories ever told.

A must-read for all generations, Saving My Assassin is the unforgettable account of one woman’s search for truth, her defiance in the face of evil, and a surprise encounter that proves without a shadow of a doubt that nothing is impossible with God.” — from Amazon

I read I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Buy now from Amazon

“Rosetta doesn’t want her new husband, Jeremiah, to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they’ll be able to afford their own farm someday. When Jeremiah leaves, Rosetta decides her true place is by his side, no matter what that means, and follows him into war.

Rich with historical details and inspired by the many women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is a courageous adventure, a woman’s search for meaning and individuality, and a poignant story of enduring love.

I liked learning about a piece of little known history during the Civil War. It’s hard to even imagine life in those circumstances.”– from Amazon

I wasn’t expecting the story to go the way it did, so I’m feeling a little ambivalent about the whole book.

I can’t say I loved it wholesale. It was well written and it’s always good to imagine a life that’s totally different from your own.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Buy now from Amazon

“A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.was good, just like everyone said it was.”– from Amazon

It was much shorter than I expected.

Again, it’s good to imagine what someone else’s life is like.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Hurston

Buy now from Amazon

“One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.”– from Amazon

It’s kind of a Huck Finn story, except for adults, not for kids.

There’s a lot of vernacular.

It was published in 1937.

That’s before World War II.

I’m still not sure what I think about it. It’s definitely not one of my favorites. As far as showing a slice of culture, I think it’s a better story than The Great Gatsby.

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall

Buy now from Amazon

“The finale you’ve all been waiting for: The Penderwicks at Last is the final, flawless installment in the modern classic series from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Jeanne Birdsall!

It’s summertime, and eleven-year-old Lydia is dancing at the bus stop, waiting for big sister Batty to get home from college.

This is a very important dance and a very important wait because the two youngest sisters are about to arrive home to find out that the Penderwicks will all be returning to Arundel this summer, the place where it all began. And better still is the occasion: a good old-fashioned, homemade-by-Penderwicks wedding.”– from Amazon

I just love the Penderwicks. I love seeing happy, healthy kids who pursue their interests. The Penderwick kids are characters that you love to love.

Jeanne Birdsall is a master at capturing all the best parts of growing up.

This book comes full circle, with lots of fun throwback references.

Timeless.  Wholesome. Satisfying.


And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman

Buy now from Amazon

“A little book with a big heart!

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove,My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

With all the same charm of his bestselling full-length novels, here Fredrik Backman once again reveals his unrivaled understanding of human nature and deep compassion for people in difficult circumstances. This is a tiny gem with a message you’ll treasure for a lifetime.”– from GoodReads

It’s called a novella, but it was even shorter than I expected.

It’s a beautiful, literary expression of the aging mind.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Buy now from Amazon

“Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on 25 April 1719. The first edition credited the work’s protagonist Robinson Crusoe as its author, leading many readers to believe he was a real person and the book a travelogue of true incidents. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is presented as an autobiography of the title character (whose birth name is Robinson Kreutznaer)—a castaway who spends twenty-eight years on a remote tropical desert island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers, before ultimately being rescued. The story has since been thought to be based on the life of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on a Pacific island called “Más a Tierra”, now part of Chile, which was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966, but various literary sources have also been suggested.”– from Amazon

I was impressed by the spiritual themes explored in this book that you don’t see in modern literature.  That is our culture’s loss.

Full disclosure: I only read the last half of the book, but I read it out loud to my 18 year old, who’s graduating from high school next month. It marks the end of an era.

Our first grandbaby is due in October, so I’m looking forward to starting a new era: reading aloud to my grandkids.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?

In case you missed it, here’s three things I learned this spring and what I read in April.

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Include

It’s a cool and rainy Friday in these parts.

This week I find I’m fighting the age old struggle between panic and trust.  Some moments are better than others.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community to write for five minutes on the word prompt include.

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Every Mother’s Day our ministry team discusses what to do to honor mothers at church.

The big conversation in ministry circles continues about how to honor mothers without making women who want to be mothers but aren’t feel left out.

Everyone knows what it’s like to have a longing to be included in a group that you’re standing outside of.  The married ones.  The mothers.  The rich.  The thin.  The healthy.

The pull is strong, the desire is deep to be in the middle of the group.  Sometimes it’s painful not to be there.  We know what it’s like.  We’ve all been there for one reason or another.  So, we can empathize.

But we forget that everyone has their own journey.

The groups we are in right now are where we’re supposed to be.  We can turn over that longing, that desire to be on the other side of the fence.  We can ask for contentment.

We can choose to open up our hands and accept where we are right now.  In this moment.

We don’t have to be in a group to be satisfied.

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Ensuring Emotional Health, No Matter Where You Live

What happens when you move somewhere new and have to re-establish your life?

Is there a way to ensure emotional health no matter where you live?

Based on my experience of living in different countries and moving in the States as well, I believe there’s areas you can focus on to create a life that is emotionally healthy.

Community

I believe emotional health is connected to community.

I was trying to capture that when I wrote Another Campfire.

You have to have friends that are close geographically. Sometimes you have to connect with friends that don’t live close by.

You have to have a safety net. You have to have people that you see every week. You have to have people that you can call for help.

You have to be in some give and take relationships.

Spiritual Disciplines

Corporate worship.  Prayer groups.  Meditation. Bible study.  Inspirational songs.

The better you know yourself, the more you will know which spiritual disciplines are critical for your emotional health.

Physical Health

We can’t divorce our emotional health from our physical health.  Diet and exercise are critical to how we’re feeling physically, and that affects how we feel emotionally.

Hundreds of books have been written on diet and exercise.  That’s way beyond the scope of one blog post.

But, a commitment to improving physical health through diet and exercise will pay off dividends in improved emotional health as well.

Margin

Richard Swenson gets credit for introducing the concept of margin, but the idea is that you don’t use up all your resources, you keep some in reserve. He addresses margin in time, finances, physical and emotional resources.

You have to know your limits.

How much socializing you can handle? What do your spiritual disciplines need to be? How much music and art and creativity you need in your life?

How much exercise? How much time off from work? How much rest?

It’s really hard to find those limits at first and test those boundaries. It’s hard to know yourself.

But, it’s so important.

Meaningful Work

It’s important to know what constitutes meaningful work for you. It’s important to know your why.

It’s important to have a creative outlet, some hobbies.

You can build a life that works for you, but it does take some insight, some intentionality and some practice.

Gratitude

Focusing on the negative is bad for emotional health.

Structures and habits can be put in place to turn that around. I know because I’ve experienced it. What a huge difference it makes. Focusing on the white page instead of on the dark spot on the page.

In every situation, there’s something we don’t like. We miss certain foods. We miss people. We miss an identity or persona or a position that we held. We miss weather conditions. We miss living conditions. We miss luxuries. We miss access to goods or services. We can miss a whole way of life.

Also, in every situation, there are things to enjoy. The pace of life. The time for deep friendships. The fresh fruits and vegtables. The view. The pursuit of meaningful work. The anticipation of seeing people we love. A simpler life without luxuries. Not having access to goods or services.

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These are the areas I’ve noticed that contribute to emotional health.

What would you add to the list?

Five Minute Friday: Adapt

It’s Friday!  Lots of good stress in my life right now.  And some of the regular kind as well.

I turned 51 this week.  Birthdays are a good time to reflect on blessings.  I am truly blessed.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community to write for five minutes on the word prompt adapt.

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When you adapt, you make adjustments to your environment.

I’ve read recently that the frog in the boiling pot of water is all wrong. That doesn’t really happen.

I don’t know.

I do know it’s easy to make adaptions to culture and eventually blend in when you should stand out.

“Don’t be conformed to the world.”

It has to be a conscious choice, because the path of least resistance is conformity.

It’s a continual choice. Which path are we taking? Whose voice are we listening to?

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After I finished writing for five minutes and was looking for an image, I remembered the modern translation of that verse, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into it’s mold,” and contrasted that with the potter’s hands skillfully creating beauty.

What a difference.

P.S. I had somewhat of an epiphany this week thinking about the image of pulling up stakes at a campsite.  It so parallels the transitions I’ve experienced personally.

Another Campfire

The sun filters through the leaves of the trees.

The time has come.

Moving slowly indicates your lack of enthusiasm for the task. This is reluctant packing for sure.

You sweep out the tent with a tiny brush. You wrestle with the sleeping bags, trying to squish them back down to the size they used to be.

You collapse the tent.

You pull the stakes. One is stuck. You grab and tug. The hard plastic grinds into your hand.

Pain.

When you’re nomadic, pulling up the stakes always hurts.

Unexpectedly a strong arm reaches around you and pulls effortlessly in one smooth motion.

You finish the job in tandem then, folding the worn pieces of tent fabric into each other forming an unwieldy mass. Together you stuff it into the tent bag. But, as usual, it refuses to fit, making it impossible to zip.

You give up and leave it messy, unable to find closure or feel the satisfaction of a job tied up neatly.

You load coolers in the van. Duffel bags of clothes, squishy sleeping bags, the bursting tent bag. Boxes of cooking supplies, camp chairs, a pair of shoes, sunglasses, purse, phone.

The campsite clears out when everyone heads to the camp store for last minute snacks.

You sit down under a tree and stare at the campfire ring, the contents black, charred and sooty.

You think about last night’s fire blazing and roaring and mesmerizing.

Because that’s what camping’s all about, isn’t it? The fire? The warmth and heat. The circle of camp chairs around it.

The joking and singing. The stories and jostling. The sticky fingers and burnt foil packets. The meat sizzling in the skillet. The feeling of being and belonging. The dark creeping in and the whine of mosquitoes and the chill in the air.

It all happens around the fire, the heart of camping.

But now it’s over.

It’s time.

Time to get in the van and drive away.

The chatter in the vehicle dies down and you are spent.

Empty.

Dusk settles and then darkness cloaks, and eventually, pinpricks of light punch through the velvet sky.

And still you ride.

Following the ribbon of highway straight in front of you, with only the lulling sound of tires on pavement.

Peaceful.

Content to be traveling.

Confident in the knowledge that somewhere down the road there will be another campfire.

  Related posts:

Frozen Grief: Why It Matters to Global Nomads

Ties that Bind: Understanding the MK Connection