I just returned from a “time-out”, a mini-vacation.
I didn’t go far, only upstairs to the porch. I took my ice tea, a pen and a book of word search/sudoku puzzles. I did word searches, listened to the birds, admired the trees with their green leaves-turning-to- gold, and enjoyed being able to “get away from it all”. Later I took a short walk towards the woods. After that it was time to close the car windows and while I did that, watch the stars and planets come out as the afternoon slowly turned to evening.
I came back from my mini-vacation feeling refreshed and relaxed—the way my body feels after a massage—only this time, it was my spirit.
I’ve come to realize I need to be outside for at least 20—30 minutes a day, every day. It doesn’t matter whether I do anything or not. Driving somewhere in the car doesn’t cut it; no, I have to be in nature: walking, mowing grass, sitting in a chair reading or doing puzzles, or simply appreciating God’s creation. It gives me perspective and calms my nerves.
Some other things I discovered I need to do every day:
something creative—write, take pictures, color, bake, or rearrange decorations
something for someone else
take time to think of God—His greatness, His kindness, His caring. I call this “dwelling on the Lord”. This may also take the form of reading devotionals.
OK, so I’m curious: Is there anything you’ve found you must do every day for your well-being, a non-negotiable for your life?
Since arthritis grabbed my attention a few years ago, I’ve been searching for materials which bring faith in God into the equation. I bought one booklet, but kept looking.
Recently I came across Chronic Illness—Walking By Faith. After reading an online excerpt, I realized this 31-day devotional by Esther Smith is more what I had in mind, so I ordered it. Esther Smith was diagnosed with lupus and hypermobility syndrome; she knows what it’s like to live with chronic illness. She knows how one day you can be fine, and the next day you can barely function, or are somewhere in between. She knows how people say you look fine, but you know you’re not. She knows how symptoms can vary from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next hour.
Esther writes with compassion and empathy, tempered with a dose of reality. While you won’t find quick answers or guarantees of healing, you will find much encouragement.
Each two-page devotional begins with a Scripture verse, followed by a reading relating to the verse. The devotionals end with questions for reflection and an action prompt, whether to pray for renewed faith, or another suggestion.
I am a week into this devotional, and am glad I found it. I recommend it to anyone fighting a battle with chronic illness who wonders where God is, if He knows, or if He even cares.
Since our household has plant enthusiasts, we have a large assortment of flower pots. Some are clay; some ceramic; some are plastic.
I like clay, but it has two drawbacks: weight, and deterioration over time and use. The layers flake off, and eventually water seeps out of the pot so it can’t be used for its original purpose.
Rather than throw the whole pot out, I take a hammer, set the pot in the grass, and give the pot a good smack. The pot falls apart and I can put the pieces on the bottom of other pots to act as drainage.
If you are going to give a clay pot this new job, some safety precautions are called for: wear safety goggles, put the pot in the grass so the grass can absorb the impact, and don’t lean over too close when you smack the pot.
Years ago I bought an 11×8½ spiral notebook with a photograph on the cover of a creek running through woods. I decided that notebook would be my “Favorites” notebook. On the inside I wrote, “Favorites—things I liked when I saw them”.
My “Favorites” notebook starts off with the poem “Refuge” by Lew Sarett, and is followed with passages by Faith Baldwin from her book Living by Faith, and Robert Traver from Anatomy of a Fisherman. The notebook includes other poems; bits and pieces which stuck out as I read different books and articles; newspaper clippings about nature, history, movie reviews; song lyrics, and people stories—people following their creative muses, and people acting in commendable ways towards people and animals.
I have a few scrapbooks, too, but those I meant to keep in order, and that order got lost in the shuffle of the years (and never taking the time to sit down and arrange photos properly). Most of the scrapbook pages are faded, and not appealing to work at. Somehow it’s easier and more pleasing to me to keep my favorites notebook going. Plus spiral notebooks are meant to be written in, so I can add my thoughts to something I read. The scrapbook pages are not good for writing on.
I found a surprising benefit to keeping a favorites notebook: when I’m in a bad mood, my nerves are on edge, or my spirits are low, taking the time to look through or work on the notebook improves my disposition, calms my nerves, and raises my spirits.
One day last week I was perturbed that I had yard work to do. Usually I enjoy being outside in the warm weather, but not that day. I think the reason it bugged me is that I wanted to do some writing on the computer. But a look at the tall grass and weeds around the shoots of the peony bush confirmed I needed to spend time trimming and weeding.
At the moment the tug-of-war between the two activities escalated in my mind, the thought came, Give the trimming and weeding half-an-hour. If you don’t want to do anymore, that’s fine, you can quit. You’ll have been able to make some progress on it, anyway. But give it half-an-hour.
With that thought, along with a prayer for God to work on my attitude, I grabbed the grass shears and set to work. An hour-and-a-half later, I stopped, happy to have a nicer-looking front yard as my reward.
Since then I decided to use this tactic with other tasks which I need to do but don’t want to do. A half-hour is long enough to allow for some progress but not so long that a lot of time is tied up in a project I don’t want to do in the first place. At the end of thirty minutes, I can reevaluate where I stand. I can either continue, or quit and do something else.
“…the women…found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:1-3) (NIV)
Although I didn’t go to church often when I was growing up, I knew Easter Sunday was the day Christ rose from the grave. I didn’t connect that fact to anything else in my life–it was just a “religious fact”. Christ came; He died; He rose. The tomb is empty. That’s good–but what’s that mean?
Years later, that empty tomb–that knowledge I have by faith–gives me hope. The empty tomb gives me hope because Christ was (and is) too big to be held by it. If He is too big for that, He is certainly big enough to handle any and all of the problems I have now or ever will have. He is not at all bothered by any of my problems. He is not fretting about what to do. He has it under control!
The empty tomb gives me hope because it means Christ is living. If He is living, I can reach Him through prayer. I have access to all His comfort, all His kindness, all His understanding of me. He can give guidance, ease my fears, cancel my worries.
That is what the empty tomb means to me now. It takes faith.
Men’s old cotton T-shirts and babies’ cloth diapers work well for dusting. They are soft and won’t scratch the furniture. On the same order, towels and washcloths beginning to show wear can still be used to clean sinks, bathtubs, or the car. If you have pets, old towels work fine to put on the bottom of the pet carrier. If the pet messes on them, the towels can be thrown out.
Years ago I worked at a discount store. It carried some clothing, but mainly knicknacks, artificial flowers, kitchen, bedroom and bath items. I marveled at the creative ways people could make low-cost gifts simply by putting different items together. For instance, for a wedding shower a person could buy towels, washcloths, sheets, and a few other goods, place them in a round laundry basket, and wrap the laundry basket with an extra-large vinyl disposable picnic tablecloth. A 54″by 108″ tablecloth did an admirable job of covering the basket, and there was even some tablecloth length to spare for tying the gift shut in a “bow”.
This is the time of year living in the Northern Hemisphere, especially if you live where it’s often cloudy, can bring on “cabin fever”. I’m sure it’s more prevalent this winter due to the lockdowns, etc. of COVID-19. When I worked at the discount store, people got some relief from cabin fever without spending a lot of money by purchasing artificial flowers, vases, and candles in the new spring colors. Sometimes people bought new tablecloths and placemats too. They were able to freshen their homes for under $20.
For many years I relied on clay litter when changing cat boxes. Eventually I had enough of choking on the dust. Fortunately I discovered an alternative—kitty litter made out of pine pellets. However, the 20-pound bags don’t last as long as I thought they would, and the only place I can buy them is some distance away. I discovered the local feed store carries 40-pound bags of pine-pellet horse bedding—at a cheaper price than the 20-pound bags of pine-pellet kitty litter. The man at the feed store told me a lot of people use the horse bedding for kitty litter. So on my next trip for bird food I bought a bag of horse bedding, and tried it out in Abby’s boxes. Abby’s OK with using it; I’m OK with the savings!
The younger human has been spending more time sitting on the couch. That’s where she was awhile ago. Knowing her lap is soft and warm I jumped onto her lap. She was talking and listening to a long device. She held one end to her ear and the other end to her mouth.
Sometimes when she was listening she sighed and seemed stressed. The older human asked if she was “on hold” (whatever “on hold” is, I don’t know). The younger human said, “Yes, I’m on hold”. I snuggled up closer to her and nudged her hand with my head. She got the message and started petting my head. I started purring. She made comments about how nice it was to pet me. I noticed her stress level went down (cats notice that kind of thing) as she continued to pet my fur. I realized I gained a new job: help the human stay calm when she’s “on hold”.
I have a lot of jobs—no wonder I need my beauty sleep! 🙂
There are days I struggle with lack of motivation. Lately, however, a phrase keeps popping up in my head: “Do one more thing”. I think this is my mind’s combination of a quote from newscaster/explorer Lowell Thomas, “Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can”, and an article from literary agent Steve Laube’s blog. The article is titled, “The Devil is in the Procrastination”. You can find the article here: https://stevelaube.com/the-devil-is-in-the-procrastination/.
Regardless of the source, that four-word phrase, “Do one more thing” helps me accomplish a little more and decrease the stress in my life.
Its practical uses are endless: from filling the tea kettle before I go to bed so the next morning goes easier; to finding one more picture for a blog post; to organizing one more manila envelope of papers, to taking time to check the car’s windshield wiper fluid level (not good to run out while I’m out and about on a wet or snowy day!)
If I told myself “I need to do this, this, this, and this after I do that” it would be self-defeating. But mentally and emotionally I can handle, “Do one more thing”.
Author’s Note: Most of this is a repost from last year. Hoping this helps someone out this winter.
With winter weather here for people living in the Northern Hemisphere, the cold and snow bring challenges in everyday living, especially for those of us who don’t have garages.
Here are a few car-care tips to make life a little easier on cold mornings for those whose vehicles stay outside:
If possible, park your car so the engine faces the morning sun. Even in very cold weather the sun warms the engine, taking a bit of cold-weather stress off the engine, and making it easier to start. This tip came from a co-worker of my mother.
Many newer cars have a more aerodynamic design. For instance, the doors of my car are even with the body. There’s no overhang to protect the door seals from the elements. That presents a problem in winter when a storm hits: depending on the direction the snow or ice comes, the car doors freeze shut even though unlocked. For awhile I sprayed cooking spray on the seals. Then a co-worker told me cooking spray deteriorates over time and draws moisture. He suggested buying a can of silicone spray from the auto parts store and applying that to the seals. While the silicone spray costs more than the cooking spray, it lubricates the seals better without breaking down. This is a case where spending a bit more is worth it!
This next tip isn’t for the car, but for animals that may be around or under the car: Bang the hood with a broom—make some noise—before starting the vehicle. Cats are known to climb up around the engine, seeking warmth, bringing injury or death to themselves, and perhaps costly damage to the engine when it starts. Taking a few extra seconds to warn any cat or other animal will save the animal and your engine.
This tip may help those who drive light-weight vehicles: put some weight in the back. I drive a light-weight front-wheel-drive car. Come winter, I throw a twenty or twenty-five pound sack of cheap kitty litter in the trunk. This “old-school” trick I picked up from my dad, who routinely put extra weight in the bed of his two-wheel-drive pickup in the winter.
With this news, strengthen those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong & do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4