What Matters Most: Loving God & Living Simply…part one

It’s getting close to my birthday and there’s nothing like getting a year older to make me stop in my tracks and ponder life. There is no doubt in my mind I want to make changes. How will I go about it? What are my first steps? I ask myself questions:

  1. What matters most?
  2. What have I accomplished?
  3. What do I want to accomplish?
  4. What do I need to eliminate?
  5. What brings me joy?
  6. What needs changed?
  7. What needs to stay the same?
  8. What is God leading me to do?
  9. Are there people I need to distance myself from?
  10. What goals do I need to set right now?

Wow. That seems like a lot of questions. I’ll answer the first one first: What matters most? To love God and live simply. This is what is the most important to me and how I want to move forward with my life.

The next few weeks I will be answering these questions, and I will share my thoughts here. This is my way of taking steps to change my life and to recognize my priorities. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck, like my feet are trying to ice skate in mud. It just doesn’t work. And some things in my life don’t seem to be working, either.

OK, back to my answers of what matters most. This answer has two parts, so today I will address the first part. For me, loving God is where it all starts, where it all leads, and where it all ends. God comes first. Without him, I am nothing. So, how do I plan on loving God?

  • Through daily prayer. My conversations with God can be lengthy or short, complex or simple, tearful or happy. The important thing is to keep the relationship strong and active. I totally believe God understands my frustrations, anxieties, heartaches, sorrows, and joys and wants me to lay them all out to him. Part of the healing is in our communication.
  • With daily devotionals. One book of devotionals I’ve been reading is Jesus Calling. It’s written as though God is talking to me. I am his child, He loves me, and I am important. Most days it touches a part of my heart that needs healed. I will continue with this, and I will add in a variety of other readings from time to time.
  • By studying God’s Word. By not only reading the Bible, but actually studying thoughtfully what it says and gaining understanding, it draws me deeper into a relationship with him. I will read the Bible daily and continue my Wednesday night Bible Study at church.
  • Journaling. My journaling often turns into “Dear God” letters. What I cannot say with my tongue, I can usually write into words. It has been sporadic in the past, but I will strive to make this a daily practice now.
  • Worship. Oh boy…this is where things get really complex and uncomfortable. I haven’t been attending worship services for a multitude of reasons. My agoraphobic issues, for one. The rest I cannot disclose for risk of being fired from my job. Suffice to say things are uncomfortable. This week, I’m going to see if a pastor within another denomination would be willing to talk with me about my concerns and perhaps give me some guidance, or at the very least pray for me.

So there is step one. This step has been relatively easy, thus far, but I know there will be more challenges to come.

If you’d like to follow along with me on this journey toward a new life, subscribe.

Take care of you.


My Autumn To-Do’s

autumn-country-roadIt’s a new season, time for some changes.  Isn’t change a wonderful thing?  We can choose to change or not to change.  Or maybe I should be saying having a “choice” is the wonderful thing.  There are some things in life I love changing and experimenting with.  But there are others I don’t want to see change at all and do not welcome any sort of circumstance that tries to change them.  For instance, as much as I love technology and typing this on a computer, I still love writing with a pen in my personal planner.  Don’t make me try to stop doing that; it makes me a nervous wreck.  It might also be the obsessive compulsive in me but I can’t rely on just one of them, I need both paper and technology to keep me going in the right direction.

Almost every season, and sometimes every month, I make a To-Do List.  It’s sort of a bucket list, just in a shorter time span.  I make these lists in both my iPhone and in my personal planner so I will always have access to them.  Here’s what I have on my list for autumn:

  1. Keep making lists.
  2. Write down my weird dreams in a Dream Journal.dreamjournal4
  3. Attend a weenie roast.
  4. Visit a new produce market and buy an apple I’ve never tried before.
  5. Drive on the gravel roads of my old stomping grounds when the autumn leaves are in full color.
  6. Go to the lake on a sunny, warm autumn day to write poetry like I did in my teen years.
  7. Try out a restaurant I’ve never eaten in alone, just to prove I can.
  8. Go to one movie matinee and see a great movie on the big screen.  It’s been several years since I’ve done this.
  9. Clean out my garage.  God help me.  Please.
  10. Write, write, and write.
  11. Read, read, and read.
  12. Work on my fiction to make my characters more interesting; more quirky.
  13. Lose 20 pounds.  (I think I can, I think I can)
  14. Eat one piece of something pumpkin.
  15. Visit someone special to me.  I am so guilty of not visiting because I always feel awkward and uncomfortable in someone else’s home.
  16. Have a Golden Girls marathon for an entire weekend.golden_primary
  17. Make and keep an eye doctor appointment.  It’s overdue.
  18. Spend as much time as I can with Maggie outside while the weather is so nice.
  19. Go out with friends at least once.  I know I’m a loner, but I also love my friends.  It’s a hard balance for me.
  20. Find a covered bridge in my county and take pictures.  This has been on my list nearly every year and I still haven’t done it.
  21. Call my brother.  I have no idea why I haven’t.
  22. Find a dark chocolate that I like.  Oddly enough, I have read it can do good things for blood sugar.
  23. Read one book by an author I’ve never read before.
  24. Read one book of nonfiction.
  25. Write more on my blog.
  26. Take flowers to my family’s graves.  Flowers for autumn or Christmas are always nice and I haven’t done this in a long time.  Difficult memories, I hate cemeteries, but I need to do this.
  27. Teach Maggie to sit.  This will probably be my most difficult challenge.
  28. Stop being so hard on myself when I mess up.
  29. Forgive everybody everything.
  30. Stay away from people who deliberately hurt me.
  31. Vote for Hillary.

OK, I’ve shared mine, now you can share yours.  Do you have a seasonal To-Do List?

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The Power of Nothing

It’s a busy world we live in. From the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we lay down to sleep at night, we’re constantly moving, doing, and thinking. And that can be a good thing. But I’m also an advocate of doing nothing, and doing it often.
I was raised on a small, 32 acre dairy farm in the 60’s and 70’s. Our family of six consisted of mom and dad, two older brothers, myself, and a younger brother who was born severely handicapped. My grandmother lived in a mobile home beside of our farmhouse. Besides the hay fields, corn fields, and cattle, there were always two large gardens being taken care of in the summer, with freezing and canning in late summer. Dad also worked a construction job most of the time. So there was always work to be done somewhere, doing something.
This was my problem…I was born a dreamer. My mind was always someplace else or wishing I was someplace else. I would escape into fairy tale worlds, or dream of riding away from everything on a beautiful black stallion, fading into the sunset. I loved the animals and taking care of feeding the baby calves. But to be honest, there was nothing I hated more than scraping cow poop in the barn or hoeing weeds in the corn fields or gardens. I didn’t mind terribly much carrying pails of milk to the cooler in the milk house, but I hated getting hay out of the haymow for fear of a big black snake being curled up on a bale. I loved spending time with mom and grandma during canning season, and didn’t mind shelling peas and shell beans, but shelling Lima beans made my thumbs so sore I could cry. Sometimes I grumbled and complained and tried, unsuccessfully, to dream myself away.
Taking care of my little brother, Joey, was a task I never fussed about. I loved him. And I would often read to him and he would listen to my voice. He may not have known what I was saying, but I think it brought both of us joy to hear a rousing tale of Three Little Pigs, or a poem from my little book of verses.
Now, Dad always said I was lazy. And I was when it came to all the chores I didn’t like to do, which are the ones he always made me do. I was blessed with two older brothers who mostly got to do all the heavy work. A good work ethic is a wonderful thing to have in life, and I appreciate having been given one from a young age.
With so much work to be done, my dad hated to see me doing nothing. Reading was my passion and what I tried to do every chance I could get, and later it included writing, too. And nothing made my dad angrier than to see me reading or writing because to him, I was doing nothing. Yet, even the sting of the hickory switch and the burn of his belt couldn’t stop me from trying to do “nothing.”
Fifty years later and I’m still hearing voices yelling at me for doing nothing. Until the last few years, vacations of any kind were nonexistent. I would have to plan chores or work to be done around the house or on a project. Guilt would engulf every fiber of my being every time I picked up a book to read. Every time I would pick up paper and pen to write, fear of being found writing would grasp my chest in a stronghold.
Oh, those voices of the past can still be heard. Slowly, I’m learning to silence them somewhat, or at least turn down the volume. I cannot change the fact I was born with this instilled need to dream, read, and write about fact and fiction. Some will still call me lazy. I accept that. But I also now accept this, that doing what I love to do, what some call “nothing,” is exactly what I need to do to survive. When I succumb to the voices, I begin to die inside. When I resist them and follow my passions, I am renewed.
Some of my favorite times of doing nothing are when Maggie and I escape for a stay at a cabin. We’re going back there soon, and I am looking forward to turning the volume off on all the voices from the past and doing absolutely nothing but dreaming, reading, and writing. Doing nothing brings me joy, and I’m no longer apologizing for it. I know when I return home, I will be renewed in body and spirit.

My prayer today is that you find some kind of “nothing” that brings you joy.

Why Journal?

Journaling is the act of writing in a notebook.  It can take on different types of writing, from psychotherapy writing in which you may write about your deepest feelings of grief and hurt to ultimately promote healing, to a daily recording of events taking place in your life, or to something in between.

As a journaler for many years, I have used the act of writing to get myself through a bad marriage, divorce, grief, depression, a thankless job, sudden life changes, sickness, goal setting, and to record happy moments.  I’ve written in French notebooks, dollar store notebooks, moleskin notebooks, and leather bound notebooks.  I don’t think there’s anything more healing for me than the act of putting pen to paper and placing my thoughts and feelings into words.

Journaling has long been recommended by counsellors and therapists as a tool to use during depression and getting through difficult life circumstances.  Seeing thoughts on paper can bring new light and transparency to problems.  It can be freeing and life changing.

In a 2006 article from psychcentral.com, There is increasing evidence to support the notion that journaling has a positive impact on physical well-being. University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.


There is proven healing in writing.  Often, I’ve not even known my true feelings about a situation until I begin writing about it.  One thought leads to another and before I know it, I see on paper something I didn’t even realize I felt.  Writing can get to the truth inside you.

Besides being healing, it’s also just plain enjoyable.  I love a pretty journal with bright colors that make me want to write in it.  It seems to beckon for my attention every day.   I also love the plain black pocket size moleskin notebook to carry in my bag.  I’ve got dozens of those things filled with my thoughts from years past.  Sometimes it’s interesting to glance through them to see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come emotionally.  Sometimes, it can also be painful, like remembering the death of a loved one.

Finding just the right ink pen for my journaling has also been important to the process for me.  I’ve experimented with many, from cheap to luxury.  My favorite is a modest PaperMate.  It writes well, the ink goes smoothly on the page, and it feels good in my hand.

For a writer, journaling daily can be significant in cultivating discipline. Knowing I need to write a few sentences each and every day keeps me motivated, and it keeps me writing.  All the thoughts that go into those journals are mine and no one else sees them, but they are invaluable to me.  They are a private part of me I do not share.  My heart and soul are laid right out there, but they are mine alone.

The start up cost of journaling is affordable for most everyone.  All you need is paper and pen and a desire to put them together.  The rewards are tremendous, and the value is priceless.

Are you a journaler?  If so, how has it helped you?


Today’s Gratitudes


This month, I’ve been posting on Facebook each day something I am grateful for.  Having an attitude of gratitude is something that helps me keep focus on what’s important in my life.  It is way too easy to get off track this time of year.  It’s way too easy to succumb to “wants” instead of “needs.”  Today, I felt the need to write a longer gratitude list.

Today, I am grateful for:

  • The calming of the wind.  Strong winds feel so violent to me, they can wreak so much havoc and do so much damage.  I like to hear that there is peace in the air.
  • The mild temperatures we have been having here.  I have been enjoying these days of sunshine and temperatures well above freezing at night.  I know it will soon change, so I am enjoying every minute of it.
  • My little dog, Maggie.  She’s a bundle of energy when I get home, a sleepy head in the morning, and sometimes a little grouchy.  Her happiest moments are when she is eating and when she frightens away imaginary creatures of the night.  She is my cuddle kid.  I’m so thankful she saved me.
  • My Jonnie Katt.  I tell him he is my boy child and that he is very handsome, because he is.  He is a lover boy, and I am grateful to hear his purrs each and every day.
  • Waking up of a morning.  One day I may not wake up, then who’s going to feed and take care of my kids?
  • A peaceful lifestyle.  Truly, I am so thankful for the quiet atmosphere.  It is such a peace to not worry about whether another hole will be punched in the wall, if I will do something to set off someone’s anger, if I will have to endure the punishment of silence.  God heard my cries and He saved me.
  • Kind words during stressful times.  They can soothe nerves better than any drug.
  • When the mailman brings me “Happy Mail.”  And by that I mean something that is not a bill or catalog.  A card.  A note.  A postcard just saying hello, I thought of you.
  • Having necessities, like food, water, electricity.  We so often take these things for granted when there are so many who have to do without.
  • A soft pillow.  Oh, what sweet dreams a soft pillow beneath the head can bring.
  • Soft tissues to blow my nose with.
  • Lotions and creams to soothe dry, raw skin.
  • Books that entertain me and make me laugh.
  • People that entertain me and make me laugh.
  • The fresh smell of clean clothes right out of the dryer.
  • A message from a friend on Facebook or Twitter, just to check on me to see if I was ok.  It’s nice to be thought of in a nice way.
  • The ability to think for myself, to make decisions, and act on them.
  • Paper Mate ink pens.  Especially, the pink Flex Grips for Breast Cancer Awareness.  They write smooth and feel good in my hand.
  • Having more than one pair of shoes.
  • Smiling at a stranger, and they smile back.
  • Fruits & vegetables and canned garlic dill pickles.
  • Accepting Jesus as my Lord & Savior was the smartest thing I’ve ever done.  Without him, nothing else would matter.  I am grateful for being saved from my sins by his blood.

My list could go on, but I will stop for now.  It does my heart good to feel grateful.  What are you grateful for today?

Please feel free to share.



Courage to be You

I’ve been writing in journals for several years.  It has been very therapeutic, and it has given me pleasure writing.  Occasionally, I would glue something special about a day onto the page, like a movie ticket or restaurant receipt.  But once in a while, I’ve wanted to draw something to go along with my writing, and I couldn’t.  I had never drawn anything, nor taken any art classes.  My hand simply could not draw.

This year, I decided I wanted to draw enough to be able to use in my journals.  I watched YouTube videos, read books on how to draw, and even took a beginner’s drawing class at the local art center.

  Every day I would practice drawing something, even if it was just a doodle on a scrap piece of paper.  I was determined.  Slowly, images took shape.
  I began playing with colored pencils, water color pens, and all sorts of inks.  I made art journals by combining thoughts I had written or scriptures and pictures.  Sometimes I thought they looked childish, as though a five year old had made them, but that was still ok with me.  It was a start and I was learning something new.
  In the process, I discovered I loved drawing angels and flowers the most.  Nothing was ever perfect, but I loved the process.  It became a way of finding peace at the end of the day.
  And I learned that I was still able to learn.  My mind was still eager to find something new to be passionate about.  Each day brought new experience and color into my life.  A new way of expressing what I wanted to say. It was a tremendous blessing God had given me, to know beauty could be found in imperfection.  
  Have the courage to explore God’s gifts.  Explore something new and embark on a wondrous journey of discovering that maybe, just maybe, you can do what you thought you could not.  Have the courage to be YOU.


The List

imagesD1IV97G4Are you a list person?  Do you spend hours each week creating, modifying, marking off, and moving your lists?  If you are, then you are one of millions of List Makers roaming our streets, teaching our children, and organizing our homes.

I make lists for many things.  There’s the annual Christmas list of things to do, gifts to purchase, places to go.  The Christmas Card List gets copied and modified each year.  It also seems to grow shorter each year as I age and discover who really are friends, and who aren’t.  Many people love to go to parties this time of year and need a list of when the parties are, where they are, what to take, and what to wear.  There’s the Decorating the Christmas Tree List.  What to put on it, what to leave off it, what needs bought, what needs stored.

Every year on New Year’s Eve, I make a list of things I have accomplished during the year, things I want to improve the next year, and things that surprised me and warmed my heart.  It helps me know what I need to improve on and grow with, and what I need to eliminate from my life altogether.  Surprise visits from friends, phone calls, and “Thinking of You” cards in the mail go on this list, because they usually make me happy.  Both happy times and sad times go on the list.  It’s not only to spur my memory, but to give me inspiration for the new year ahead.  My list of what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year, what I want to do to the house, and what personal goals I want to set all go in my notebook.

Each week, I have a grocery list, to-do list, pet food list, and sometimes what I want to watch on TV list.  Sometimes, I think I need to have a list of my lists just to keep track of all I have listed.  It helps to keep them all in one place, like the $1 notebook I carry around with me.  Otherwise, my lists end up disappearing and don’t resurface again until I’m cleaning out my handbag or wallet, and sometimes that’s not for a long time in between.

Then, there’s the book list.  What books have I read, what were the best ones, what were the not so good ones, and what do I want to read in the future.  I keep telling myself I will one day have an up-to-date list of all the books I own, but so far that hasn’t happened.  It’s on my to-do list.

I have lists I’ve never even used yet, like the cleaning list I downloaded from the Internet.  The list of how to organize my closets and lists of cleaning products I need to have on hand.  The list of ingredients for homemade laundry detergent I want to try is waiting on me in a drawer.  These all need to go on a Someday I Wanna Do List.

Are you an accomplished List Maker, or an aspiring one?  What kind of lists do you make and do you organize them?



What are you grateful for?

It was on the Oprah show that I first heard of a Gratitude Journal.  Then everyone was talking about a Gratitude Journal.  Articles in magazines, YouTube videos, Pinterest. Put Gratitude Journal in your search engine and you can read all day on the benefits of keeping one.

I’m going to keep it pretty simple, because that’s what I do best.  A Gratitude Journal is a notebook, piece of paper, tablet, or anywhere else you record a list of all that you are grateful for.  It can be in your phone or computer.  Mine began in a $1 notebook from the Dollar Tree and has now progressed to a leather wrapped looseleaf notebook.

Each day, I jot down at least one thing I’m grateful for that day.  Oprah says she writes five things she’s grateful for.  You might like to list ten, the choice is yours.  What’s important is that you write it down so you can see it, so that it sticks in your mind.

Oprah said,

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah knew what she was talking about.  Focusing on what I have makes me realize how blessed I am.  I have a home with a roof on it.  There are many people in the world who do not.  I have enough food to eat today; many do not.  Things I’ve always taken for granted, I now see in a new light.  A pillow under my head at night.  A blanket to keep me warm.  Clean clothes to wear and shoes on my feet.  These are all blessings, and I am grateful.

Having gratitude for what I have helps keep me focused, and often a bit humble.  When I think I want something more, I realize I have enough.  When I read back over all the things I’m grateful for in my life, it makes me realize that God does provide what I need, not what I want.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I will be honest, there are some days I’m feeling out of sorts and grumpy and I may struggle to find one thing I’m grateful for that day.  But I write it down.  And often, once I start writing, I will think of another thing I’m grateful for, and another.  Soon, I will have the page filled with gratitude’s I didn’t even know I had.  It’s a nice surprise!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.                        ~ Philippians 4:6 NIV

To have an attitude of gratitude has made such a difference in my life.  It makes it easier to distinguish between my wants and needs.  When I’m upset over car trouble or a leaky faucet or the cost of electricity to heat my house, I get out my Gratitude Journal and pretty soon I’m thanking God that I have a car, a faucet, and electricity.

Being grateful has improved my mood, lessened anger, and quieted my nerves.  It can change my day from one that really stinks, into one that’s not so bad after all.

What are you thankful for?