Saving My Life: Spring Edition

As per the phrase by Barbara Brown Taylor, this is a pictorial look at the things saving my life throughout spring.

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Working on my Find Your Fade shawl (now about 85% completed!) at our friends’ during a recent music rehearsal. Their home sits near the Illinois River and is as tranquil as it looks.


A house in our neighborhood usually has their blooming dogwood tree decorated with plastic Easter eggs and this year was no exception. Now that the blooms and Easter have both been celebrated, I still feel myself smiling as I drive past this uplifting tree.


When visiting Seattle a few summers ago, my main souvenir was purchasing this Longchamp purse at the flagship Nordstrom store downtown. The salesman said many ladies in Seattle carry them since they are weather resistant, so loading up my bag with all my earthly possessions I need for the day to carry during the spring rainy season in the Ozarks has been a lifesaver.


After finishing Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott last month, I was inspired to bake a (low sugar) classic apple pie. It had been years since I last baked a pie from scratch, so I was pleased with how well both the crust and filling turned out! And what better time to do so than for Easter Sunday lunch, where we hosted our favorite octogenarian friend for ham, homemade potato casserole, asparagus, and bakery rolls after church.


The line from On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, “The life I love is making music with my friends,” sums up this photo perfectly.  Our church family, namely our praise team family, means the world to The Optometrist and me and it saddens us greatly that one of our dear friends is soon moving away. In light of his forthcoming departure, snapping this photo of our people before a recent Sunday morning late service was a moment I wanted to capture for ever and always.

What are things saving your life this spring?

Scheduling My Life in Pencil


During college, throughout graduate school, and now working as a professional librarian, I love using a paper planner to organize my life. (I did use a PDA 10+ years ago, provided by the college where I worked at the time.) A print calendar with hourly listings throughout the days of the week is visually helpful, allowing me to look to see how my day will map out – whether it’s the following week or six months down the road.

I’ve used the August to August planner for years, also tried one from Levenger, and currently have a monstrously heavy one from Erin Condren (it’s super cute, but didn’t realize how large and heavy it would be to lug with me to work five days a week).

In organizing individual events, in years past I’ve used different colored pens to signify different responsibilities: work (black), personal (blue), my husband’s schedule (red), and church music responsibilities (green) – just to name a few – thanks to a pack of multi-colored Bic pens.

But last fall, as I began adding events into my 2016-2017 planner, I was a little hesitant to use the same color-coded process once more, so I decided to use pencil for everything instead, just until I decided what I wanted to do. And seven months later, I’m still writing down every event in pencil.

I’ve found using an eraser is far more practical than having to get out the wite-out pen for the rescheduling of meetings, fluctuating numbers of students attending library research sessions, changes in event locations – you understand.

And while this has been my routine for months and months now, the calendar open before me for hours each day on my desk, and just recently did it occur to me that this practice of writing out my life in pencil has deeper connotations.

How I invest my time speaks to my priorities.

I have no control over the passing of time, so make it count.

Don’t miss your moment.

Looking back to various days, I observe my pencil markings that are indicative of inner dialog like:
Oh, good grief, I didn’t get hardly anything accomplished today.
Well, that was good enough for today. It’ll still be waiting for me tomorrow.
I have enough time to look ahead to next week’s task and be proactive in getting that done.
Wow – that was a really great day where everything came together so well!

And as I glance back through events over the past two months or so, there have been moments I have seen parallels to how time = service or how blank spaces = rest.

~ Spending a Sunday evening at the nursing home to sing quartet music for a friend whose heart is struggling to keep beating.

~ Heading home a bit early to prepare food in hosting a friend for dinner.

~ Taking a few minutes to be intentional and send a quick thinking-of-you text, or a few more minutes to hand write a note of encouragement to a friend.

~ The Optometrist and I having an open evening and saying an easy “yes” when friends invited us over to play cards on a school night.

~ When nothing is planned for the evening, we we can cook dinner together, play music together, or simply “nest” in our bedroom with a good book and knitting (me)/playing a new video game (The Optometrist).

While it’s a continual balancing act, my aim is to continue doing my part to plan and be prepared for what’s to come, serve others and take care of myself, all the while looking to the future with optimism and openness.

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“I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that you have for me.”
Open My Hands ~ Sara Groves

“I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus, I will hold on to Jesus for life”
Hold on to Jesus ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” ~ James 4:14 (NIV)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)

Things that are saving my life right now

Linking up with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and others to share things that are saving my life right now, with today being the official half-way point of winter.

  1. A Soft Murmur

    The lodge where we stayed on our honeymoon 4 1/2 years ago included a noise machine that I loved. We looked into buying one, but boy are they expensive! Therefore, when The Optometrist found this website (and there are very similar apps for mobile devices), I remembered how much I loved the soothing sounds of rain/white noise. This site is bookmarked on my library computer where I often run this app for hours each day to calm myself and mute noise from outside my office.

  2. Waking up with intention

    Through a knitting podcast and a conversation in Sunday School a few weeks ago I’ve become more diligent about awaking, establishing routine (checking weather, blogs, news, e-mail), reading my Bible, and determining my focus for the day. This has allowed me to feel like the day begins with purpose and to be aware of how my attitude impacts the day’s trajectory.

  3. Consistent, hassle-free breakfasts

    When poking around Pinterest early one morning searching for low-sugar breakfast options, I discovered two recipes I’ve come to rely on almost daily:
    Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake
    I cut the recipe in half and still have enough to share with The Optometrist.
    Using coconut extract is also a yummy alternative to vanilla extract.

    Skinny Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Muffins
    I double the recipe, sometimes use dates instead of brown sugar, and always use Hershey’s sugar free chocolate chips.

    We’ve found this combination of food sticks with both of us until lunch time really well. But needless to say we go through a lot of peanut butter and bananas in our house fairly rapidly…

  4. Water Rower

    Our Christmas present to ourselves this year was a water rower, which has been a fairly consistent way of exercising indoors during the winter. I still love a good walk around the neighborhood, but with darker morning and afternoon hours, this helps fill in the winter exercise gaps.

  5. Bath time

    During a recent trip to Walmart I discovered Tree Hut coconut and lime Epsom salts (also available on Amazon). On cold winter mornings a warm bath and the smells of the tropics (or at least warmer temperatures) is a relaxing and optimistic way to begin my day!

Looking back to my 2016 list of things that were saving my life, this year’s list is much more specific, but no less meaningful to my journey at this point in time.

 

January Journey

You know, I often think to myself, “Yes! I’ve got it all put together! Watch me go!” and then God gently reminds me, “Wait a minute: you’re not done yet! Remember I’m in control and I want to constantly refine you to make you more like me.”  Oh yeah…

So, January has been quite the month of the Lord refining me, namely working on the way I view myself and the way that I mentally “talk” to myself (come on, we all do it). Having a personality type squarely in the Type A category I am often very task-oriented, detail driven, appreciate competence, and have difficulty giving myself grace when I make a mistake.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, I’m a firm believer that the right book finds you at the right time and right now Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When you You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild is the book that has found me. Given to me by my Momma for Christmas (yet picked out when we attended one of Jennifer’s Fresh Grounded Faith conferences in the fall), it’s come at a perfect time to help me replace negative self-talk with positive, truthful self-talk.

Jennifer’s analogy is to picture your internal dialog being organized in a personal “thought closet.” Are these words that are taking up residence kind or self deprecating? She also writes that the hateful words we often call ourselves (stupid, dummy, idiot) are words we would never allow someone else to use to describe or to say about us. That hit home, I tell you.

I feel I work very hard on serving others, but I must remember that if I’m not taking good care of myself mentally, this is eventually going to spill over and impact the well-being of my relationships and my marriage, so taking time to be kind to myself is a healthy investment to myself and others.

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He’s still working on me
To make me what I ought to be.
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He’s still working on me.
Joel Hemphill

What is the Lord teaching you this first month of the new year?

2016 Favorites & 2017 Projections

Favorite Reading:

Click on the links below for a more detailed review from when I read these throughout the past year.

DarkMatter
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

capture
How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

coldtangerines
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist 

ReadyPlayerOne
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Total books read: 56

Favorite Knitting:

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Title & Pattern: French Cancan
Recipient: me!
Yarn: Araucania Huasco DK: Grass
Needles: US 7

Green complements our University’s main color and the cabled border is a show-stopper!

coffeebeans
Title & Pattern: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan
Recipeint: Elias
Size: 6 month
Yarns: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash: White, Malabrigo Yarn Rios: Glitter
Needles: US 7 & US 8

Such a pleasing and quick knit, which was so appreciated by my friend, the mother of the baby!

Total knits: 46 items

Hats: 12     Baby booties: 9 pair     Socks: 4      Dish cloths: 3     Various household items: 3 Adult afghans: 2     Mittens: 2      Fingerless mittens: 2     Coffee Cozies: 2     Cowls: 1         Shawls: 2     Baby sweaters: 1       Baby blankets: 1     Princess Crown: 1     Other toys: 1

2017 Ponderances:

  • When recently reading this Modern Mrs. Darcy blog post, I began pondering what it would look like for me to think on purpose this coming year. Rather than have my mind flit from topic to topic, a more diligent approach to my conscious thoughts will allow me to think more deeply, practice more logical reasoning, and perhaps see different angles to a given situation.
  • Practicing the art of hygge –  a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close. From The New Yorker.
  • Finally knit a sweater! If I can knit a baby sweater, I know my skills allow me to be capable of knitting an adult size sweater. I’m pondering several patterns on Ravelry, so the goal is finding the right one and pairing it with the right yarn…
  • All the while remembering less is more. When I was in grad school and made peanuts for a salary, I was completely content to not buy new clothing, books, yarn, or other creature comforts very often at all. Somehow over the past few years this mindset has shifted, especially when I have seen so many beautiful yarns, striking patterns, or engaging descriptions of books, it makes me feel like I need to buy/read/make the same thing. I want to remember I can still buy/read/make these things, but more in moderation (quality vs. quantity) and to think on purpose if I will really enjoy it in the long run, and if not – to vicariously enjoy other people’s photos, descriptions, and creations.
  • Possibly re-read the Bible (If so, this will be my 4th re-read). I found the process of reading through the Bible this year (ESV) was greatly assisted by the narration feature on my Bible app, which would be again be used if I endeavor to make this spiritual journey again.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13b-14 (ESV)

 

What I’ve Learned: Fall 2016

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of fall.

  1. A little light makes a big difference!

    I’m a big fan of cozy lighting and The Optometrist has been asking me for a while if I would like a nice piano lamp. I kept hesitating about buying one, but every time I turned on the living room light, I didn’t enjoy the full brightness that surrounded me.

    One recent evening The Optometrist found an unused desk light, which I’ve had since college. He placed it on top of my piano, and voila, cozy light by which to see piano music in the evening! (I’m loving my simple Christmas decorations: stack of favorite Christmas books, Father Christmas, Believe sign, and selection of Christmas sheet music/books.)


    Yes, there are much fancier, more expensive, LED models out there, which I might want to purchase someday, but with just this little helper I find myself sitting down to play a lot more often, and thus, wanting to keep my skills honed.

  2. Progress takes time.

    This semester my load of teaching library research and other classes is significantly lighter than last fall, but I’ve found myself appointed to two library committees, two University-wide committees, plus two more University-wide subcommittees. Several of the committees have been tasked with making new, sweeping, and impactful choices that will directly shape students’ curriculum choices next academic year. The VP who oversees many of these committees wisely selected the members, impressively so. Yet, even with a team of qualified faculty members, I’ve been reminded that big changes with deadlines still need the appropriate amount of time for the right conversations to take place, history to be evaluated, which then leads to the right decision being made with confidence by those invested and involved.

  3. Up front communication is good for the soul.

    I’m convinced that Satan wants nothing more than to plant seeds of doubt and insecurity in the hearts of believers who encounter perceived slights by other believers in the church.

    One such occurrence came my way this fall and my assumptions flew all around my soul. …Have I done something to upset this person?  …Is this because I’ve not been there every time?  …Does this person think I’m not reliable to step up and lead in the future?

    Realizing that a text or phone call wouldn’t come across appropriately, a face-to-face conversation lasting approximately one minute allowed me to ask, “I was wondering, have I done something wrong? Because last time…” quickly assuaged my doubts, soothed my worries, and set me back in place to keep serving with a cheerful spirit. (Take that, Satan.)

  4. There’s room at the table for everyone.

    From the previous lesson learned, I had to swallow a mouthful of pride and let someone else take a turn in the spotlight.
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  5. Alabaster offering

    Journeying through the New Testament Gospels, I had never realized until recently that Mary, the brother of Lazarus, was the same one who anointed Jesus with alabaster oil, wiping his feet with her hair (John 12).

  6. Gryffindor

    I’ve often wondered in which Harry Potter house I would live, so after three random online quizzes, plus the official one from Pottermore, all said the same thing:
    gryffindor
    Oh to live up to the characteristics of being brave, courageous, chivalrous, daring, and bold!

The God Who Sees Me

The first weekend in November, my momma, my aunt, and I joined a host women as we worshiped and were taught during the Fresh Grounded Faith conference in Springfield, MO. It was a sweet time of encouragement, laughter, and spiritual renewal.

The theme was Unshaken and each of the speakers, Jennifer Rothschild, Margaret Feinberg, and Karen Abercrombie shared insight into their personal struggles, all the while trusting the promise that “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:6). Specifically Jennifer, who is blind, shared that she has made the choice not to fear. She said she just doesn’t do fear.

Never has a theme from God’s Word been more timely, because of all that happened last week…

The election results troubled my soul and made me very anxious.

And then I received word that my dad’s cancer had returned.

During our weekly church choir rehearsal Wednesday night, I shared this diagnosis with our people, many of whom have personally walked or are walking with someone who has cancer, so they know how this news takes the wind out of your sails.

Upon arriving to work on Thursday morning, this note and beautiful leaf were propped against the door to my office. Such a heartfelt, gracious, and intentional gesture from a sweet sister in Jesus who heard the news and took time to reach out to me.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him ~ Nahum 1:7 (NIV).

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Then a little while later, we had our library-wide Thanksgiving luncheon and in the time it took me to establish my seat and then return with my plate of food, one of my colleagues jotted a little note on the paper table cloth aimed my direction, “We are thankful for you!” He didn’t know who was sitting there, but chose to just leave a little note of encouragement.

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Tears sprang to my eyes as I felt the Holy Spirit saying to me, “I see your frustration and hurt. I see you.

When Hagar was on the run from Abram and Sarai in Genesis 16, the angel of the Lord spoke to her and “she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

In her despair, I doubt she was expecting to hear a word from the Lord’s messenger, just as I was not expecting to have two back-to-back moments of encouragement. Yet, the overwhelming assurance of peace came over my soul as I realized once more, God sees me.

With so much uncertainty still ahead, I choose not to fear, I cling to unshakable character of God, I continue to thank Him for seeing me, and remember the example of Father Tim in the beloved Mitford series, as I pray the prayer that never fails, Thy will be done.